Hindu Gods and Goddesses

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

An Encounter With An Angel: Jimi Hendrix, Gandharva, Bellingham, Washington

When I was first living in Bellingham, WA, not far from Jimi's hometown of Seattle, I was walking towards downtown, towards Stuart's coffeehouse, and a black man standing in the doorway of an apartment asked me if I wanted to smoke a joint. We stepped into his apartment, and the whole front room was filled with expensive sound equipment.  He told me he was a musician, a guitarist, and he played me a recording of his very psychedelic guitar playing as we smoked the J...

This man named Jimmy/Jimi told me he was the same age as Hendrix and that they were in fact born on the same day, gazing at me as if he were awaiting a response.  My random friend had short hair and no big afro, but was built very much like Jimi Hendrix and looked quite like him in the face . . .
Jimi asked me if I wanted to start a landscaping business. 

Never saw him again there in Bellingham during that first visit (1998-99) nor during later visits to that lovely city in the northwest corner of the contiguous United States of America.  I am actually rather inclined to believe it was really Jimi Hendrix I puffed with on that day in B'ham . . .

Am I saying Jimi Hendrix is (or at least was) alive years after his purported death ?!?!  Maybe . . . Else he is a Gandharva, a heavenly musician (Gandharvas and Apsaras are Heavenly Musicians and Divine Nymphs, i.e., "angels" according to the Western religions), and decided to pay me a visit...

All I know is, by my memory of that encounter, the fellow in B'ham was not unlikely really Jimi...

Namaste and Rock On !!!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Knuckers and Nagas . . .

Yet another etymological discovery !!  Not that the relationship between Sanskrit (or "PIE," Proto-Indo-European, if you buy that racist spiel) and the English language has not been acknowledged . . .

From Wikipedia:

Knucker is a dialect word for a kind of water dragon, living in knuckerholes in Sussex, England. The word comes from the Old English nicor which means "water monster" and is used in the poem Beowulf.

From Wikipedia:

Naga, (Sanskrit: “serpent”) in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, a member of a class of mythical semidivine beings, half human and half cobra. They are a strong, handsome species who can assume either wholly human or wholly serpentine form and are potentially dangerous but often beneficial to humans.

The mythological serpent race that took form as cobras often can be found in Hindu iconography. The nāgas are described as the powerful, splendid, wonderful and proud semidivine race that can assume their physical form either as human, partial human-serpent or the whole serpent. Their domain is in the enchanted underworld, the underground realm filled with gems, gold and other earthly treasures called Naga-loka or Patala-loka. They are also often associated with bodies of waters — including rivers, lakes, seas, and wells — and are guardians of treasure.[4] 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

A Pilgrimage to Nowhere In Particular (Chapter 1 of Memories and Musings of a Post-Postmodern Nomadic Mystic Madman)

A Pilgrimage to Nowhere in Particular

Chapter 1 of Memories and Musings of a Post-Postmodern Nomadic Mystic Madman

I was back in Laramie after an intense year of studies, still not quite finished with my Master’s thesis, and far from any semblance of a mastery of life. I was restless, and not at all content with the conditions in which I found myself. No, that’s not quite the right way to phrase things, for I was far from finding myself at said juncture in life—a journey of about a thousand miles, and perhaps then some.

I was married and had a wonderful young son, and had nearly completed a Master’s from one of the most tauted schools in my field. I had received excellent marks in all my courses, and some of the top names in the relevant academic disciplines were quite impressed with my work. I was unsatisfied, however, both with the progress of my thesis and with the teachings I had received at the University of Chicago, in spite of the relative excellence of the education offered at said institution of higher learning and the tutelage of inspiring professors.

At a gut level I felt as if the underlying truths I had a desire to discover were scarcely given a nod, even at one of the most renowned universities in the world. I instinctively sensed that what I sought was still veiled beneath comparatively inconsequential discourses, if not intentional fictions, indeed as I had felt previously whilst an ordained Southern Baptist minister and student of religion and history at Oklahoma Baptist University.

I believed (or have come to believe, and knew at my core) that there might be something not unlike a consensual agreement among academics, as amongst the more perceptive ministers of the conservative denomination to which I once belonged and in like institutions, to skirt else categorically deny the deeper issues that might be controversial, unpalatable or even paradigm shattering. Somehow I discerned and have since determined definitively that there is indeed some twisted and deep-seated conspiracy to intentionally dissimulate regarding certain known truths that might unsettle the integrity of those institutions and disprove those sacrosanct myths which hold up their prestige—and keep their pocketbooks filled.

Either this, or these supposed learned men and women might merely be blind to the subtler truths of reality and history, unable to see beyond disputations about angels dancing on pinheads or what tactic was decisive in a particular battle, the cadence of Shakespeare’s sonnets or how the chili pepper had arrived in India. Not that there is no value whatsoever in these sorts of exercises and inquiries, mind you, nor to a fair amount of what learning I acquired from lectures and assigned readings both as an undergrad and in graduate school. Rather, I was not satisfied with these as the gateway to those subtler truths I sought, which were certainly not readily to be realized within institutional confines and even if thus realized, not likely to be accepted within the discourse of the academe.

Whilst in Laramie, I attempted to find work lecturing at the regional junior college, or anything remotely related to my field of study. I ended up working on a highway construction safety crew. My evenings were mostly spent at what was Laramie’s only full service coffeehouse at the time, Coal Creek Coffee Company, working away at my thesis and unwittingly beginning to show signs of being sadhu, though I shall leave unwritten the specifics of those beginnings of my tantric practice. After Coal Creek Coffee closed for the evening, I’d most often wander on to the Buckhorn Bar.

I readily became quite smitten with one of the baristas at the coffeehouse, but hadn’t the self-confidence to engage her in even the most casual of conversations beyond ordering coffee or tea and a scone. Rather introverted after a grueling year at graduate school during which my wife (pregnant at the time) and I had first separated, and my mother, grandfather and family dog of seventeen years had died within a period of about three weeks. It was only once I was at the bars, a belly full of booze, that I had the wherewithal to be at all socially adept, and there a bit much so considering my presumed marital status.

So besides this sober reticence regarding the prospect of approaching said beautiful barista beyond the most casual of exchanges, I was married, and she also happened to have a boyfriend with whom she seemed quite enamored. Still, something about her moved me, inspired me towards a deeper search, a quest for the essence of what is beautiful, true and transcendent.

It was somewhere before Thanksgiving of that year, 1996, that I decided to go on what I deemed a “pilgrimage,” though I had no particular place in mind as a specific sacred destination. I had concluded that my life was at a standstill. My marriage was failing, my spirit stifled, and within me was a deep-seated desire for some sort of change the which I could not quite yet put my finger on, an angst issued from some seed not yet given the room to grow. I had lost faith in the claims of Christianity, seeing too many holes in their theology and claims regarding history, and similarly found academia wanting, as it seemed it had likewise grown too attached to the assumed verity of its dogmas and tradition. I wanted some semblance of answers unalloyed by a fear of questioning bygone authorities and institutional walls, unfettered by hollow convention and shallow tradition.

I recognized it was also trying on Holly, my wife at that time, to deal with my malaise and still overtly concealed carousing ways, and so we agreed she and our son would return to Oklahoma to stay with her parents while I attempted to get things together, to find steady employment and finish my thesis. I drove with her and our son Kieran Drew as far as Shawnee, where Holly and I had both attended college. From there, I set off on my first attempt at hitchhiking, intending only a short stop in Santa Fe before returning to Laramie to find work commensurate to my education and career aspirations and which would properly support our family. I felt like this “leap of faith” sort of experience might help me to clear my mind and figure some things out (I had grown quite fond of Kierkegaard’s writings as an undergraduate).

I said goodbye to Holly and Kieran, watched the black Honda Civic drive away, shed a few tears, and walked on. I was hoping to find one of a few of my more open-minded college friends still abiding in Shawnee—i.e., the truly liberal arts majors and not the theology and religion folks. I went to Deem’s Bean Scene for a coffee, Shawnee’s only coffee house at the time, hoping to run into someone I knew. No luck there, so I strapped on my frame-pack and headed towards the highway, less than forty-dollars in my wallet.

I spent a couple of hours at the Denny’s by the interstate, hoping I might meet someone there who was driving west. A friendly waitress gave me a few tips from her somewhat limited knowledge of hitchhiking. I finished my coffee and whatever I had to eat (I think it was either an omelet or a cinnamon roll), then started down the on-ramp and proceeded to hike along the shoulder, extending my thumb every time a vehicle would approach. It was somewhere after 1 a.m., Thanksgiving Day, 1996.

The night air was a bit chilly, though not so cold as in the high country where I’d been less than a day previous. I said or thought a semblance of a prayer somewhere along the way, an invocation that was something like, “God, Goddess, Universe or whatever you are, if you are there and you hear me, show me your providence, and love . . .”

After less than fifty cars and trucks and tractor-trailers had gone zooming by and less than an hour after I had started walking down Interstate 40, a pickup pulling a load of glass pulled over to the shoulder. A couple of dime-store meth-cowboys invited me into their ride and told me they were headed to Las Vegas after a brief stop to unload their trailer. I rode with them as far as Albuquerque, rolled my last two joints of Mexican brick-weed to smoke with them on the way, and fell in and out of a half-sleep state over the course of the ride (the driver didn’t seem to have any trouble staying awake).

Less than five minutes after hopping out of the pickup, a low-rider with fading and scratched paint screeched to a halt on the ramp between I-40 and I-25. I scurried to catch up and climbed into this second ride. The driver was a longtime local, and he offered a few tips about regional etiquette. He said his family had lived in the area for hundreds of years, and that I should be careful to refrain from calling the longtime non-indigenous (i.e., descended from early colonial) inhabitants of the area “Mexicans.” He informed me these people were properly categorized as “Spanish” or at least “Hispanics,” and that anyone with roots going back to the Conquistadors and first European colonists of New Mexico would take great offense if referred to as “Mexican.”

Though I can understand this man’s pride in his heritage, said kind low-rider cruisin’ “Spaniard’s” lecture gave me cause to consider how people sometimes grasp for categorical differentiations to distinguish themselves from whatever perceived “others,” to question why folks so often seek to elevate themselves by depreciating others, or at least to separate their own group from whatever other group they (or the wider society) may have deemed lesser. I had most succinctly encountered this unfortunate social phenomenon whilst attending high school in Oklahoma, where many of my pale-skinned peers derogatorily referred to our peers of African descent by the well-known epithet—if also often noting that those of our African American classmates they happened to like were not to be fitted in said category. Trying to fit in, I admittedly joined in on an occasion or two, though quickly recognized such words didn’t belong in my mouth.

Of course being in Oklahoma, most of these “whites” were to some degree or other of Native American descent (as am I), yet memories of the Trail of Tears and other such abuses of their ancestors, which should have taught them (or perhaps more accurately, their parents) compassion for minority others, had seemingly given way to the frustrations of being born into a particular socio-economic “caste,” so to speak, and to a want to find some other group in relation to which they might imagine their own status superior.

Not to do this very thing to those thus pressed to the periphery of the prosperity and social elevation of this nation by means of this analytical assessment, mind you. I do not desire to judge herein. Rather, I would merely wish to point out a cycle of social dysfunction that has maintained separations amongst oppressed peoples that ought to instead recognize a common cause. Members of such disenfranchised groups should well realize they have reason to unify, to break down these barriers that do little more than continue to maintain socio-economic disparities and to divide those who might rise together to overcome the injustices that have for too long held far too much sway in our world.

The CIA and other such organizations have subversively employed “divide-and-conquer” techniques in their covert actions, as has nigh every ruling class and empire throughout history in order to prevent a unification of potential foes. A few years later I would encounter the divide-and-conquer tactic first-hand whilst living at Big Mountain on disputed land in Arizona, where the Hopi and Diné were supposedly squabbling over the desert scrub they’d been forced to share since subjugated to the rez. There was no significant overt dispute between these tribes regarding this land, in fact, until a mineral extraction company decided they wanted access to this land, and thus the Department of the Interior, the BIA and purportedly even the FBI got involved, and the human rights abuses began (er, continued).

I would like to point out from another perspective that there is clearly great good in maintaining the integrity of cultural identities, so long as these don’t divide the oppressed where they ought to unite, nor cause strife where they should cause celebration. What a boring world if it were all of one culture and if we all looked the same!

This proposal is indeed a tenuous balance, to maintain pride in one’s people and traditions, and yet uphold respect for those who maintain other identities and cultures and lifeways, and still to determine and defend those basic and universal standards of justice and human rights that ought to transcend whatever traditions. And as should be apparent by these assertions, I’d also help incite, if I might, this world’s yet oppressed peoples to find what common ground they might to fight the still threatening swells of commercialism, neocolonialism and economic exploitation, to stay the destruction of native homelands and prevent the erosion of healthy and beautiful indigenous lifeways, languages, tribes and families.

Pardon the digression. Where was I? Oh yeah, on my way to Santa Fe. In truth, said descendant of New Mexico’s early Spanish colonials was doing me a favor by offering advice regarding the socio-cultural lay-of-the-land, regardless of whatever personal prejudices or pride may or may not have justifiably or otherwise motivated his monologue.

After this kind gentleman let me out at the southern edge of New Mexico’s capital, I started towards the center of town. I had called in advance to find out what arrangements for lodging I’d need to make at the Santa Fe International Hostel. Though I had left on this journey with only forty dollars, I was still want to ensure a comfortable and safe bed awaited me at what was intended to be a half-way point between Shawnee and my return to Laramie.

I was quite green to the ways of wandering, and completely unaware of the traveling hippie culture that was still going strong just after the end of the Grateful Dead’s long strange trip. My assumption upon extending my thumb was that this hitchhiking endeavor was relatively unique in a decade I believed had long left those aspects of the hippie movement behind. I had not, by the way, read any Kerouac at this point in my life, and was familiar with the Grateful Dead scene only by having attended a few cover band shows in Oklahoma City and Norman, OK, and thus by interacting with the eclectic audiences these performances attracted (yes, there were and are Deadheads and the likes even in Oklahoma . . . really). Oh, and I was also made privy to Head-lore by befriending Suzanne, my smokin’ hot upstairs neighbor and fellow MAPSS student at the U of C who had done the Dead scene when Jerry was still on stage.

Upon checking into the hostel, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the residents and staff were preparing a mostly vegetarian feast for Thanksgiving dinner. I enjoyed this unexpected delight, then sat out in the courtyard sipping some wine and smoking a joint being passed between some of the other residents. A light snow was beginning to fall as I endeavored to engage these other hostel-goers in conversation. I thus made the acquaintance of Natalie and Louisa, who were amongst the party puffing on the patio, and my first acquaintances to become friends in Santa Fe.

Natalie was a Canadian, and Louisa was from Amsterdam. Natalie was exceedingly effervescent and amicable, and Louisa rather reserved if not reticent. Natalie had red to brown hair, and Louisa was a blond. Both were rosy cheeked from wine and the chill of the snowy evening. Also present was a rather pretentious Latino in a poncho who was telling tales (however tall) of his father’s associations with Che Guevara. He didn’t much seem to appreciate my presence.

Natalie informed me that her boyfriend Arvo had need of help in constructing, as she described it, “a straw-bale, environmentally friendly, chemical-free as much as possible” home in the wilds north of Santa Fe. I decided this was likely another act of the “providence,” for lack of a better term, which I was seeking, and the likes of which had appeared amply displayed in my journey thus far, to my heartfelt satisfaction.

On a later excursion with these first two friends in Santa Fe, plus my employer at the time, Arvo, a mail order pot-pipe producer who lived in Tesuque named Dan, many Negra Modelo and swills of cheap tequila and spliffs smoked in a hot springs on a snowy hillside . . . I received a mild concussion after walking off the rock ledge above the upper pool (I think the Tequila softened the blow a bit, though was also the probable cause I fell off the precipice and got concussed in the first place), virtually carried Louisa (who was suffering from some apparently dismal revelations that had come to her on a Psilocybin induced vision quest) up, and then after my concussion, back down the slippery snow-covered pathway. I later discovered that a hippie mama named April from the Laramie crew died in these particular springs sometime thereafter, and that Native American Indian lore tells that hot springs on the sides of mountains are potential bad medicine. I don’t go there anymore.

Of course the heater didn’t work in the station wagon as we piled back in to head down the mountain into Los Alamos. Then whilst huddling under a blanket with the two ladies in the back seat as the wagon proceeded down the icy road, a rather disconcerting proclamation with a German accent proceeded from the driver’s seat: “Shit! Elk! Shit! Shit!” I felt the car swerve and then a thud, as apparently we had struck the tail end of a cow elk crossing the road. A few moments later, our driver informed us that the brakes had failed.

After many tenuous curves on our way down, we made it to the bottom of the incline seemingly alive. In order to fix the brakes we made an unscheduled stop at the home of Dan’s dad, who was of course one of those X-Files type Los Alamos scientists who couldn’t even tell his own family what he did for a living. At least we weren’t abducted by aliens on some deserted stretch of highway between Los Alamos and Santa Fe (so far as I can recall).

I sat for a while enjoying the buzz of good food and wine and weed in the hostel’s courtyard, unaware of many such odd adventures which awaited. Indeed, I was quite blissfully and obliviously observing and absorbing my surroundings, endowed with a lightness of spirit I had not known for many years, if ever before—save perhaps in the solitude of the wilderness. The air was charged with a magical quality as symmetrically fractaled snowflakes lazily fell in the subtle light of my first Santa Fe night.

The chill did not seem the least uncomfortable, but in fact quite exhilarating. I breathed in the rarefied air of freedom and exhaled contentment and peace as I contemplated the steam of my breath and shimmering snowflakes falling under the floodlights. I felt liberated from an oppression that had weighed upon my true self since childhood, as if I had outrun death or slavery. I had discovered a renewed innocence in this state of detachment from society’s tracked and plotted place for me, and felt unfettered from a guilt and subjugation to which I had seemingly been yoked and which in fact didn’t belong to me in the first place. Indeed, by sticking out a thumb whilst standing next to the open road, one is inviting more than free conveyance from one place to another, and certain adventure if not outright conveyance to another world or paradigm, the likely consequences.

Please do not mistake, this liberation I felt was not about being loosed from the responsibilities of being a husband and a father. Rather, I was glad to leave behind the subtle factors of unnatural institutional influences and unnecessary social and psychological control, and to at least temporarily ditch the direct sway of those lies that uphold the assumptions of authority used to justify manipulations of the masses and unwarranted intrusions into our lives. Somehow I seemed to have evaded “the system’s” tracking system, and had broken some of so many strings tying me to the stultifying expectations of religious and social tradition and karmic ties to others’ pasts, “sins of the father,” and myths of some taint of original sin we’re all supposedly obliged to carry. It was these unhealthy and oppressive ties I was grateful to sense were severed, and not those more endearing and important bonds.

In departing from householder role, I was seeking to attune a soul not yet well or properly adjusted to this world. Indeed, in my mind were intentions to find somewhere within myself that self who’d best serve as husband and father and whole human being in whatever context, and indeed I did much lament separations from those beloved persons I had to leave to find what it seemed I lacked. I might also recall one particular instance of prescience (at the time only available to my gut) that told me Holly and I were not meant to last, and which in fact occurred very soon after we started to date in high school. We were standing in the hallway at her family’s home, and after sharing a kiss, she told me that as a girl she had believed or wished she would marry a man with the last name “Wood” so that her married name would become “Holly Wood.” As she spoke these words, I experienced the proverbial “gut sensation,” a literal if slight ache in my innards that should have told me then that our relationship was not to last. Within approximately one year of officially divorcing me, Holly married a man named Jeff Wood. Even things like divorce do happen with rhyme and reason, at least some of the time.

Next morning after snagging a couple of complimentary pastries and performing my requisite chore at the hostel by scrubbing a tub, I wandered towards the plaza and made my first of many visits to the infamous Aztec Café to spend my last five-dollars, received as the return of my deposit upon completion of the aforementioned assigned chore.

I was amazed at the colorful clientèle of this officially state-designated “Cutting-Edge Art-Space.” More mohawks and dreadlocks and non-traditional piercings were displayed than I had seen in all my life. Hippies and punks and artist sorts, Deadheads and florescent-dyed and dreaded hair dominated the scene. Hippie mommas were braiding hemp, and various freaks had their handcrafted pipes and wire-wrapped semi-precious stones and crystals out for display on tables next to lattes and maté gourds and croissants and bagels.

This was a wonderland I had only dreamed existed, and these were the natives of the polymorphic-postmodern-nomad culture to which I had always an instinctual knowledge I belonged, despite being quite oblivious that such was yet thriving. Or at least I felt I belonged here more than in the midst of the bourgeois conformity I had known heretofore, that sanitized and assimilated culture to which I had become never quite comfortably habituated previous to taking this assumedly unconventional leap of faith.

I soon made the acquaintance of a number of interesting wandering and local freaks, some who’d grown up in communes and some from the suburbs, some who’d followed the Grateful Dead and some who’d come to Santa Fe to study art or the classics, and some who had just hopped aboard some brightly painted bus and didn’t know where they were going. There were white kids who wanted to be Rastafarians, a few with knotted hair who legitimately fit said category, and more than a handful of trustafarians. There were blacks and whites and browns and yellows and reds and any number of beautiful hues in between, and each with something outside and in they bore to endeavor a free-expression of self and to differentiate from the dysfunction of mainstream culture, else perhaps to display his or her chosen mystic path. At least this was how my rather innocent eyes perceived what I encountered here in the wonderland of “cutting-edge” Santa Fe and the Aztec Café, the hippie caravan scene still lively as Deadheads had not yet let go of their gypsy ways, the Rainbow Tribe’s Gathering at a peak in the number of eclectic and ragtag pilgrims converging.

Hope for peace and a transformation of society by love, compassion, and transcendence was strong amongst these seeming free spirits, and as more than a mere echo of the sixties. I was in awe at finding what I had longed for consciously since a lecture in a sociology class at OBU when a professor had given a rather inspiring speech about the hippie/protest movement of the sixties and early seventies, and for what my spirit had wanted unconsciously at least since my elementary school days, if not from past lifetimes immemorial.

In retrospect, having been made privy to other perspectives and at times forcefully pressed to see a less beautiful view of these and other events in my life, I realize I was somewhat naive, for better or worse (likely for the better). I had chosen to be emptied of all prejudices and to let go of the conditioning I had received by so many years in and influenced by institutions, from school to church to media-fostered consumer-training and so many other modes of propaganda designed to assimilate inhabitants of this land to the so-called “American Dream.”

Though at the time I felt very much a novice amongst these veterans of the road, as I held no presumptions that I was wiser, cooler, or more hip than any of these, I have come to realize in some ways I already held a consciousness and spiritual freedom many of these seemingly superior in the ways of counterculture lacked. Not to judge any in particular from whence I sit and type these words, but it has become clear to me that even amongst many of these seeming free spirits there were yet vestiges of competitive intentions, oneupmanship, schemings and connivings, etc., or at least the sometimes apparition thereof.

Not that there was not also and indeed more prominently true camaraderie, expanded awareness and good intention, and indeed likely some who were ascended souls. Yet to wear tie-dyes and dreadlocks or black-eyeliner and purple hair or an eight-inch mohawk does not necessarily mean one has a true grasp of the principles of legitimate protest or genuine and unalloyed intentions of free-expression, a solid desire for solidarity or even a half-assed, half-way integrated aesthetic or philosophy. I have come to realize heart and mind do not necessarily always accompany overt signs of affiliation with various counter-cultures, modes of dissent which indeed most often maintain compelling and substantive messages, well thought-out symbolic expressions of protest and legitimate individuation, and very much valid ideas and ideals for social transformation.

From yet another perspective, it might be noted that if one wears a mask often or for long enough, one might well become what is represented thereupon. Or to put it in another context, this is not unlike the often held understanding that devotion to whatever given deity is designed to bring devotee into union with said expression of divinity—i.e., Yoga (“yoke” or “union”), “be one with the father, as I am one . . .,” theophanies and theogonies, apotheoses and the self-realization of avatars, etc. To meditate upon or imitate a form is to receive or become the essence of that form to whatever degree. Bow to an image of Krishna and you may find yourself drawn to dairy farms. Wear hippie or punk clothes, or those of a businessman or woman, and you are not unlikely to find yourself to whatever degree conforming to the spirit and essence of those subcultural paradigms, just the same. There is thus a certain level of truth to the perception that you are what you wear, and indeed, sometimes clothes do make the man. Essentially, signs matter.

I did not make even these critical assessments at the time, however, though well-enough trained in semiotic analysis and cultural criticism, as I was determined to be open to whatever expression of guru (though not quite yet a term I would have used) might manifest through these new and exciting experiences, these doors opened into the world of wanderers, renunciates and mystics. And indeed, lessons and would be teachers and even veritable gurus appeared in many guises during this first pilgrimage on the road and similarly throughout the course of my journeys thereafter.

I called Natalie’s boyfriend Arvo to inquire about employment. The terms were six bucks-an-hour, lodging in a camper parked behind his house in town, and all the homegrown I could smoke whilst on the job at his homestead north of Abique. My employment entailed stuccoing straw-bale walls with a mixture of mud and sand and portland cement, chopping wood and carrying water.

Like most I met in Santa Fe and thereabouts, Arvo was a rather odd (or perhaps better, “interesting”) character. A well traveled German of Latvian descent, he had run away from home at the age of seventeen and somehow ended up in Indonesia, where he met a Dutch journalist who he then accompanied to Afghanistan in order to tote sound equipment whilst said journalist covered the Mujahedeen insurgency against the Soviet occupiers. His graying-blond hair was constantly disheveled (when not covered with a ski cap or other hat), and he generally had automobile grease on his outerwear, as he was a freelance mechanic by trade. Given to the stereotypical emotional outbursts often touted a trait of Eastern European sensibilities and simultaneously to the typical German work ethic and sense of efficiency, Arvo was not an easy man to work for, if nonetheless a good-hearted and genuine fellow. I was certainly grateful for this “manifestation” (hippie/Rainbow/road parlance for a seeming spontaneous and helpful something somewhere between providence and magic) of employment and shelter, and in my state of intentioned humility took whatever personality conflicts in stride for a few months until I was hired at the Natural Foods Co-op in Santa Fe and took lodging with a long-haired guitarist named Miguel.

Among the more intriguing people I met in Santa Fe was a woman named Coreena (or was it “Careena”?). She was a tall and thin and beautiful artist with short brown hair, and on one occasion we had one of the best conversations I experienced during this stay in Santa Fe as we smoked a joint one night in De Vargas Park. I had been introduced to the work of an anthropologist by the name of Gregory Bateson by one of a few professors I had as an undergrad who overtly sought to expose his students to freethinking and who unabashedly encouraged a questioning of the Southern Baptist dogma and the policies of thought and action that issued there-from. I mentioned some of Bateson’s ideas regarding the formation and emplotment of binaries and their implications in the construction of consciousness, and Coreena grew exceedingly excited as she proposed the idea that if a spacecraft such as Voyager landed on a lifeless planet, playing the well-known recordings sent along into the atmosphere, the sound vibrations would over time bring order to the soil and rocks and whatever elements present, eventually creating life according to the frequencies and rhythms transmitted into the atmosphere. As she grew intense in her elocution and at least intellectually aroused, I almost kissed her, but for some reason was restrained from this boldness.

Coreena’s roommate Mila, whom I scarcely got to know, had grown up on one of the area hippie communes. She was tall and blond, and was rather quiet if not aloof on the few occasions we were in each other’s company. This pair and their peers were given to wearing feather boas and displaying various similar carnivalesque or burlesque expressions of fashion, as well as to those sorts of artistic and other modes of alternative expression somewhat expected of hip young Santa Feans, and were of course mostly bisexual. As I recall, one or the other worked at the Cowgirl.

The Cowgirl is around the corner from the Aztec and attracted some of the same eclectic clientèle. The waitresses and lady barkeepers I’ve encountered over the years at this iconic bar-and-grill are generally quite hot, clad in cowboy hats and tight jeans or short skirts, and often present demeanors as they take an order that indicate they are of the sort who fancy nose-candy—to enhance their service, of course. Not my poison, by any means and for a number of reasons: “Hey, can I offer you a line, fortified with sodium carbonate-dissolved peasant flesh? C’mon, you’ll like it!” . . . but definitely a favorite of more than a few waitresses and cocktailers and strippers from the LA to NYC, Seattle to Miami. Not to judge, mind you.

Arvo once related a story he had been told by Mila about her years on the commune which I found rather emblematic of the communal movement during the seventies. It was near Christmas (or Solstice, depending on which hippie you ask), and the mostly vegetarian communitarians were having a rather lean holiday season. One evening one of the community’s inhabitants stepped out of the house and startled a passing deer, which promptly ran into a wall and expired on the spot due to a cleanly broken-neck. The communal crew dined heartily that holiday—even, according to the version of the tale I was told, some of the otherwise vegetarians, who viewed this seeming self-sacrifice as a sign.

This is how a generation of wild and free people learned to live, freed from the fetters of false, churchy spirituality in order to relearn and redefine the meaning of words like love, blessings, liberty and divine providence. Cut loose from the chains of supposed civilized society, these “rebels” sought to learn how to return to a closer relationship with divine Mother Earth and Her gracious bounty, and thus to a more abiding means of earthly existence in the here and now, and how to conform to a state closer to nature and to reform life lived into a reflection and remembrance and recognition of the unity, harmony, peace, purity and magic more natural to human beings than suburban box houses, concrete and steel, and living around a schedule of 9-to-5.

Some eventually dropped-out of dropping-out, though many of these have tried to remain tuned-in. Others still carry on these traditions manifest from meetings of modern and ancient, tribal and multicultural, wild celebration and sincere meditation, conscientious living without puritanical misgivings. And many of these wild and freed spirits of this first grand wave of elevated, altered, and expanded consciousness called the hippie movement continue to convey what they have learned to those who have turned-on or tuned-in sometime since the sixties and seventies.

Regarding other romantic or nigh romantic exchanges, my experiences in Santa Fe were less than fulfilling. After a night at the bars playing pool with Natalie, having consumed much tequila and beer and both made-up with eyeliner and rouge for our playful excursion, we returned to the house and I ended up having sex with my temporary roommate Kristina, an attractive eighteen-year-old local. Nothing ensued from this one night stand, nor from the odd tryst with a somewhat neurotic rich girl who decided to scoop me up whilst passing by in a taxi and take me home to her bed. The most “substantive” (nigh) romantic experience I had during this period of introduction to the wild and whimsical world of hippies, artists and gypsies generally was with an older woman named Pilar.

I met Pilar at a reggae show at a bar up Canyon Drive. She was a New Yorker in her upper-thirties, and was from South America originally. I was twenty-four and from southeast Wyoming. Upon leaving the show together, we walked beside the Santa Fe River—a rather meager excuse for a waterway bearing that designation, and she told me of her failed relationship with a Rasta musician who had numerous other paramours as well as offspring. We later took a trip together to stay at a monastery next to the Rio Grande as retreat from the everyday and sometimes warped “metaphysical” milieu of this old New Age city at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Our mutual friend Tom conveyed us in his seventies vintage Pontiac (if I recall correctly the make of this behemoth of a ride) north from Santa Fe and towards consequential encounters with sacred sites of three religions. Tom was a thick-framed on-again off-again junkie from New York City I met at the Aztec Café and with whom I smoked much hashish and learned a great deal about heroin (not from any personal experience, mind you, as this is yet another poison I want nothing to do with), about the drug-courier scene in New York City, and about Buddhism.

Among other tales, Tom told me several somewhat scandalous stories about Chogyam Trumpa, the famous/infamous renegade monk who mingled Tibetan traditions and hippie culture in the sixties and seventies, including an account of a dildo named Mr. Happy. Oddly enough, Laramie had an analogous heavy-set Buddhist storyteller named Tom (much older and recently deceased), who would sit at one or another of the local coffee houses and offer tales about Trumpa, touted Buddhist philosophy, and similarly claimed a strong liking for heroin.

On the way to the monastery, we stopped for a brief visit at a mosque in Abique, site of a sizable “white-Muslim” community. We met the imam, and I discovered from ensuing conversation that one of my professors from the University of Chicago (who was in fact at one point my thesis advisor) had preceded us for a visit to this mosque by only a week or two. A notable synchronicity, I suppose.

We reverently or at least respectfully entered the adobe mosque under rounded domes rising towards the deep-blue desert sky. As I recall, we removed shoes and washed our feet in the tiled foot bath (or at least I remember intimately examining the tile-work of this basin, if I didn’t get my feet wet) before passing through the arched earthen doorway into the sajadah (prayer room). I pondered the idiosyncrasies of this center of worship as I examined the Arabic script and mosaic on the mihrab,2 considering this desert setting with in mind analogous scenes surrounding mosques from North Africa to Arabia, and wondering of the lives and motives of the mostly converted members of this Muslim community in northeastern New Mexico. I opened my senses to assess my surroundings, or perhaps “endeavored to feel the ‘vibrations’” of the worship which transpired in this place, and indeed found some things in the atmosphere there in fact more comfortable than what I’d known in most Christian houses of worship, though still not by any means something perfectly fitted to my spirit.

I had written my Master’s thesis (which I never quite completed) on European discourses on Islam, basically with a view to exploring European writings which did not characterize Islamic people with the usual stereotypical essentializations. I was interested in dichotomies of “self and other,” and why conflicts arise as well as how resolutions and harmonies are manifest between “us” and “them,” however deployed in any given context. This visit thus fit well with themes I had already given much thought, providing an interesting example of the evolving relationship between “the West” and Islam.

After a night’s stay with a friend of Pilar’s who lived on a hilltop just outside Abique, we continued on to our intended destination, the Christ of the Desert Monastery. This Benedictine monastery sits next to a particularly picturesque section of the Rio Grande. The buildings are all earth-tone adobe, though stained glass and frescoes embellish some spaces. Of the several earth-built buildings, a prominent bell tower rises highest above the lush valley.

I could almost imagine this scene the same, three-hundred-plus-years in the past—minus the cars and trucks in the parking lot and electrical lines dangling overhead, that is. Despite the antique appearance, however, the monastery was actually founded less than fifty years previous. In the midst of the construction of an addition, however, adobe bricks stacked and ready to be molded into new earthen walls with worn wooden scaffolding erected for the task, this place elicited sensations reminiscent of the early colonial missions established in the region, centuries before—or at least Hollywood renderings thereof. Vintage Clint Eastwood films came to mind.

Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk who had spent time in Asia studying meditation and the philosophies of China and Tibet and India with Buddhist monks and other renunciates and who consequently became well known as a proponent of the ecumenical movement had apparently spent a span of time at this monastery previous to his death in 1968. The gift shop offered a wide selection of his books, for sale at retail prices.

This monastery had a policy of offering retreat to world-weary strangers in exchange for a little work and worship—a worthy expression of saintly duty and charity. We ended up staying for only a couple of days, however, as Pilar was unhappy with some of the expectations the monks held for visitors. As we had started to form something of a romantic connection I decided to accompany her to Taos, where she intended to attend a festival which was to occur at a Hindu temple coinciding with the night before the new moon during the month of Maaga—that is, sometime in February or early March.

We hitched a ride down the long dirt road and into Espanola, then happened to meet an acquaintance of Pilar’s named Casey, who just happened to be going to the same festival with his girlfriend, and who thus just happened to offer rather cozy conveyance in his VW bug up the Rio Grande Gorge and into Taos.

Pilar showed me around town, and introduced me to some of the odd and interesting characters of Taos proper and others who lived out on “the Mesa.” The Mesa, which consists of two primary settlements, Two Peaks and Three Peaks, is a hodge-podge gathering of hippie homesteaders both young and old who took advantage of the bankruptcy of a land development company whose holdings on the west side of the Rio Grande Gorge were regularly offered at back-taxes auction for less than a couple of hundred bucks per-acre. I have heard the Mesa affectionately described as “the largest free-range insane asylum in North America.”

Among the more memorable Mesa inhabitants Pilar introduced me to was Two-Raven (or as I have heard him called, “Too Ravin’ Crazy”). This character had grey dreads to somewhere near his waist or knees with blown glass beads and bones and any number of other odd objects woven in, and wore two or more tattered layers of robes. Two-Raven gave me a “medicine card” reading that told me I was a good man to bring women water whilst they are in “the moon-lodge,” and that I have “dragonfly-vision” (i.e., can deal with cantankerous women and can’t see straight?). There are quite a number of other characters nigh as eccentric out at Two and Three Peaks—“wing-nuts,” as these are designated in turn of the millennium Hippie-speak, a mostly endearing term often used to describe the craziest amongst the tribe.

These two communities consist of a chaotic conglomerations of asymmetrical earth-ships and other unique adobe and straw-bale structures, recycled wood chalets and permanently parked VW and school buses which have been home to many a wildman and woman, freaks and heads and punks and anarchists and various uncategorizable others who have sought retreat from the real madness of the consumer-driven, spiritless mess manifest destiny, capitalism and the conventional take on the American Dream have made of a once wild and free land. Indeed, if these are insane for their discontent with the dysfunction of a society that has poisoned the rivers and cut down the forests and placed cookie-cutter houses and box-shaped chain-stores where once was habitat shared by many tribes of free people and animal and plant life alike, then count me amongst the insane.

Pilar and I spent a night or two at the Laughing Horse Inn, a rather unique place of lodging with eclectic themes for each domicile. Our room had bunk-bed style accommodations with a television built into the slanted ceilings above the upper bunk, and Navajo blankets and rugs embellished the rustic Southwestern ambiance. We also stayed at another of her friend’s homes, where we came as close to having sex as we would during this time spent together, though she halted the act just as our respective genitalia had become only slightly acquainted. Likely for the better, as she and I had definite personality conflicts.

Though I spent a bit of time with her upon the occasion of later visits to Taos, little more developed of our friendship. I must say I am at the very least grateful for Pilar having encouraged me to attend this Sivaratri celebration, an experience that indeed conveyed me to a remembrance of myself—or rather of Self—that I had begun to experience unwittingly via odd signs and indications of being sadhu that had already surfaced in behavior and thought, karma and dharma.

We arrived at the temple a bit early, and were thus enlisted to help with preparations by stringing garlands of flowers and prepping food for the coming night’s celebration. I took a little time to read some of the literature lying around, as some inhibitions instilled from my days as a church goer and Christian minister still held some sway in my mind, and I thus had a wish to be better informed regarding the nature of the coming celebration and rituals. As I read about the intentions in creating representations of the Divine in murtis (statues and other depictions), I came to the realization that visual portrayals of the sacred were indeed no less adept nor less acceptable as modes to inspire devotion and right3 action than the written word I had been taught to believe and revere in the Christian tradition. In contemplation I concluded that in consideration of so many wars and other contentions over the “correct” interpretations of writ dogma, and in light of Inquisitions and a variety of other abuses of human rights done due to slight divergences of belief, that in fact such universally accessible depictions as murtis (icons/“idols”) might be understood as less likely to be subject to manipulation than even the most concisely written sacred script, and perhaps that much more likely to elicit or evoke sincere and unalloyed devotion and positive transformation. Indeed, especially when such speak so eloquently and archetypally and psychologically if not scientifically validly as doth a well portrayed murti. One example which not so subtly portrays this: the Ten Avatars of Vishnu quite clearly portray human physical and social evolution, a religio-scientific construction dating back thousands of years and certainly long before Darwin and Marx.

As the long night of kirtan (call and response chants) began, I at first stood in the foyer outside the temple room, still hesitant to step inside to where linga (sacred phalluses) that sat in a yoni (sacred vulva) chalice were being anointed with offerings. As these ancient songs accompanied by sitar and mrudungam, tablas and harmonium (if I recall right) played into the cold night, however, I began to feel a warmth and resonance in my soul that far exceeded the relatively shallow responses elicited in revivals and youth conferences and church camp meetings I had experienced during my days amongst Baptists and other evangelicals.

My body began to sway in ways heretofore unknown or forgotten, as if these vibrations were awakening something had lain dormant, an energy awaiting a cue to animate a dance in time with my true spirit, if only immaturely and shyly expressed as yet in nATa (dance). I observed with a combination of curiosity and instinctual remembrance as rhythm and rhyme were performed in the ancient tongue that is parent (or at least great-aunt or uncle) to even modern English, as pujaris (priests and priestesses) dressed in ochre robes poured yogurt and rice over the sacred grey and red linga stones gathered from India’s Narmada River, reverently rubbing the mixture over said phallic figurations and carefully caressing the thick concoction through and out of the yoni shaped stone chalice, rinsing and repeating with different colored ingredients mixed into the thick edible ointment, later the prasad partaken of by devotees as well as food for Deity.

This ancient recognition of the Divinity in even the supposed base union of penis and vagina, and thus affirmation of life’s abundance, nature’s pathways as pure, spirit’s (or better, prana) flow in physically manifest form felt more akin to the spirituality I had known laying upon a mountainside as a child, wandering amongst pines and tundra and next to snow-fed streams and rivers and alpine lakes high above my hometown and above the understandable confusion I felt as I was being socialized and institutionalized, even at the relatively open and liberal elementary school I attended during my early years of this lifetime. This worship resonated with my wildman’s soul. This was closer to nature, to naturally being-human, and was indeed something at least a step or two beyond a liberal education and churchy indoctrination.

From my perspective of the proceedings from the plant filled atrium that surrounds two sides of the inner room, I decided to venture deeper into the temple to sit amidst devotees and murtis in two and three dimensions placed ‘round the sanctuary according to ceremony. Ancient memories and primal energies rose up and ‘round my spine as I sat, kundalini awakened. The vibrations of the Sanskrit intonations and tabla beats, sitar and harmonium, melodies and harmonies and rhythms untied knots I didn’t know were tied, and opened channels I had only the least awareness existed. I again consciously compared these sensations to what I had experienced in the highest points of devotion I had known in the Christian tradition, and quite succinctly concluded this more ancient and primal devotion was more genuine, more true to myself and to the truth of the Divine, life and nature and all that is than anything I had encountered at dozens of youth rallies and revivals, retreats and tent meetings.

Through the course of the night, I would alternate between sitting and chanting in the temple and hanging out by the fire and chatting with devotees, sipping chai and smoking cannabis (mostly) in the shadows. Charas (hashish) is a sacrament traditionally consumed during this festival in India, Nepal, and other nations with long established Hindu populations, and as such is more than tolerated in those places. This aspect of the festival is not officially endorsed at this particular temple in Taos, however, as the sacred use of marijuana products has not yet received the same acceptance as even its medicinal use, nor the legal recognition granted peyote for use by Native American Church members. This despite the true status of charas (hashish) as the most anciently and continuously utilized sacramental plant, or perhaps sacrament generally for that matter, of any religion in the world.

As the sun rose shortly after the last watch of the ceremonies I made the decision to return to Oklahoma to endeavor to patch things up with Holly and to see my son. I had discovered much of what I had set out to find at the inception of this unconventional pilgrimage, and a change of heart I had much need to experience—though as it turned out my hopes to salvage said marriage were already doomed to failure.

I could continue on to tell details of my brief but blissful stay at the Lama Foundation (an interfaith retreat center in the mountains above Taos)—a pleasant transition before departing from the Land of Enchantment to travel to the Sooner state. I could also take a page or two to describe the rather epic scene set alongside a state highway on the way to OK, wherein a Kansas deputy dipped his pinky finger into what I am rather certain was a bag of crystal LSD—though a cop prepared for the trip by having attended Grateful Dead shows, at least by his telling told me whilst the ride was being searched by another deputy and before he accidentally sent himself into a reality of heavy-duty fractals and spirals and seemingly good vibrations and thus grew suddenly mostly silent, but I’ll leave those stories and details for another time or medium.

I believe even to this day, and after having been given cause to reconsider nigh everything I ever once, and then later understood as “true,” that through these experiences I had become reintroduced to Self, to Atman, to brahman, the good and true nature and source of Being, compassion and purity that had in fact always inhabited my vessel, and which pervades throughout this good earth and her inhabitants and throughout the universe, if scarcely noticed or noticeable in places.

Though I do now maintain the conviction that certain traditions of practice as best maintained and taught in India and known generally as sanAtana dharma are nearer a root, primal and well considered understanding of the nature of humanity and existence and God/Goddess, and I believe offer a more valid historical and philosophical purview of humanity’s recent spiritual and literal pathways and pilgrimages than do those religions which proceed from the “Abrahamic traditions,”4 I would not claim to be “Hindu” (actually a rather recent term for the most ancient continuously practiced religious traditions in the world), though I might accept the designation, “tantric practitioner.” Nor would I reject those good teachings which do exist within Judaism, Christianity and Islam, various indigenous traditions, nor those offered by the philosophies of secular humanism, etc. I learned on this journey that there is a more substantive strand of righteousness, spirituality, compassion and celebration of life and the eternal that exists in so many places and lifeways, and which cannot be narrowed to any single dogmatic system of belief I have yet encountered.

This “pilgrimage” had no particular intended destination, no specific sacred shrine in mind nor revered location as a motivation to wander. The holy place I sought and was led to was instead a sacred understanding within my heart and mind and whatever other chakra, a beatific recognition that there is much more to this world than is generally noticed by the dulled awarenesses we have inherited from an industrialized, urbanized and suburbanized society, which has become too nearly divorced from the natural world and from those spiritual connections instinct and primal memory would have us enjoy.

I came to realize over the course of this first quest that it is not in creed nor in dogma that truth is contained, though written traditions may offer a certain degree of elevation to human beings. And though I have found myself quite convinced of the verity of what’s expressed in and by the term sanAtana dharma, “eternal teachings”—the most ancient and abiding religio-philosophic-scientific tradition in the world, I came to understand a less rigid religion than some o’er proscriptive brahmanical code, i.e., the wisdom of the consummate Wildman, who just happens to be none other than Great God, Mahadeva, a wisdom conveyed by naked forest dwellers, sadhu and nagababa and postmodern post-Grateful Dead tour Rainbow gypsy wandering tribespeople, among others, who remember and recognize this primal spirituality, linga-yoni good, pure yet not puritanical, playful and fecund, abundant and free.

Indeed in this more earthy and potent, even pungent spirituality, divine truth is writ elsewhere and everywhere, if one only has the willingness to allow its revelation through the course of a life lived with openness to good guidance and the inherent beauty and truth of Nature, to an honest questioning of institution and the status quo, a willingness to let loose attachment to popular versions of reality and to endure whatever potential hardships as one endeavors this sacred pilgrimage offered to any and every life lived.


Prologue and Introduction to Memories and Musings of a Post-Postmodern Nomadic Mystic Madman


I am a dead man walking—er, actually I am currently sitting and sipping a highly honey-sweetened cup of Wyoming-roasted coffee with cream on the back patio of a coffee house in downtown Laramie. The pale-brown liquid within my cup has grown quite cold over several hours sitting and exposed to the elements of a high-country afternoon, though ice has yet to form around the rim. I sometimes gaze into the swirls of milk fat floating on the surface and the patterns of variously mixed solutions of bean juice and water and honey and half-and-half to scry with what shapes might emerge to tell of things present, past or possible.

I don’t mean that someone has me as their mark, necessarily, or that I am keeping a wide-eye open for fear of potential assassins, necessarily. My point with these words is in fact rather more stark. What I actually mean by this opening statement, these first words in print after flyleaf and front matter, is that I have already been murdered, and perhaps on as many as five occasions. The most poignant and certain instance of experiencing my own homicide occurred one ordinary summer’s day at dusk in Golden Gate Park, when two bullets were rather randomly and I dare say undeservedly introduced to the inside of my skull after an otherwise pleasant and uneventful day on Hippie Hill.

In addition to such homicidal intrigues, I have encountered sasquatch, a skinwalker, apparent holes in space-time, and a shape-shifter who did her turn whilst astride my lap. In pursuit of romance and the hidden secrets to life and history, guided by instinct, intuition, chance, and sometimes helpful deities, I have been granted many such glimpses behind the veils of normalcy—at moments to my delight, and at others to my terror.

At a certain point in life I decided I had a desire to unabashedly seek the truths that seemed unavailable in academia or conventional religion, and to discover what hidden magic and beauty and adventure this world really has to offer. I concluded at some moment of disillusionment or discontent that merely reading books of fiction or supposed scriptures to find inspiration and truth, else vicariously viewing others’ explorations and adventures on TV or on the big screen proved insufficient means to satisfy my yearnings to experience or to satiate a want to know, and thus I decided that I had a need to endeavor the quest, and by the most quixotic and heroic means I might have need that I might find what abides behind life’s curtains.

And so I began to live as a wandering renunciate before I truly knew what this meant or might imply, hitchhiking and train-hopping and back-country rambling on a simple and more or less innocent search for answers and quest for love both transcendent and terrestrial. Thus began the ride of my life. Visions and experiences that answered to my curiosity and were revealed to my searchings surpassed extraordinary, and indeed met with the sublime, and even Divine.

I have been tailed by a tornado in the badlands that bore the certain imprint of God made manifest, and have pursued an apparent apparition or Avatar of the Goddess across the breadth of the continent. I have crossed the threshold between life and death more than once, though still I breath, drink, eat, piss, shit, think, and even occasionally fuck, and thus by all appearance and common indicators I am quite alive. In the most recent third of thirty-six or so years lived I have experienced things most would assume the stuff of fairy tales or fantasy, mythology or merely a wild imagination.

Yet here I sit, just where I sat some twelve years ago, and with little if anything overt to show for my years of questing, labors of love, challenges to the system and changes to myself. I now have a PC upon which I type these words, whereas then I had a Mac. This evening I pen (er, type) my early memoirs, whereas then it was my Master’s thesis I labored to complete. Little else overt has changed, save that I am now long since estranged from then-wife and son, church and institution, I have lived over a dozen years more, and these days don a beret and wool overcoat instead of a thin cotton trench coat and ski cap. Three fat dreadlocks also now dangle amidst the otherwise unknotted past-shoulder-length hairs on the back of my head.

The sun is setting behind the Snowy Range Mountains, and the oft-ferocious high plains wind is only a gentle breeze this evening. I’m watching this rather dull spectacle (compared to the best or even average of Laramie sunsets) from the back patio at Coal Creek Coffee Company’s downtown coffeehouse and roastery. A freight train is roaring past beneath the steel footbridge that spans the railroad tracks which reside between my vantage and the sunset. This bridge links the downtown to the Near West Side, and purportedly is or at least was longest of its kind in the country. Random pedestrians in wool coats and down parkas pass by both near my seat and strolling over the human viaduct in the background, faces only glimpsed between snuggly wrapped scarves and hats pulled low, and fewer I know now than I knew in days past in this small city on the high plains.

Said painted black steel and concrete span, occasional trains rumbling beneath, the derelict smokestack tower that stands ten stories tall behind, and people passing by in warm winter gear provide an excellent foil for the now dark gray clouds and fading light and subdued colors of this evening’s sunset show—or would it be the other way around? Regardless, it seems to me at this moment, this picture painted in words might offer a poignant backdrop for you to bear in mind as you read on, dear reader, providing a scene that appropriately sets the tone for the tales to come in this text.

Before the beginnings of my wild and weird cross-country adventures, before I tried to make a break from the system’s sometimes subtle and subliminal hold, I would often sit at this very table laboriously researching and writing my Master’s thesis, “Non-Essentially Occidental: Heteroglossia in the European Discourses on Islam.” Back then I still held on to some semblance of the assumption that there was a comfortable place for me within “polite society” and inside the bounds of the popular consensual reality of Anytown, USA, and its various venerated institutions.

Never quite finished this thesis, and thus abandoned hopes of becoming a certified PhD professor-type. Instead I decided to seek the truths of self and other (and “Self” and “Other”) outside of familiar text and tradition and institution, to take to the open road to search for evidences of heteroglossia (many tongues) telling different versions than the officially-sanctioned and academy-approved, and to find a more personally valid and abiding title or state of being than “Doctor” or “Professor.”

In this loosed condition, wonderful and weird magic and mystery unfolded before my sight and other senses. Wisdoms both beautiful and terrible were bestowed as the wide world opened doors to mysteries archaic as well as immediate, from revelations regarding obscured secrets of ancient myths and migrations of ancient Gods and their peoples to the manifestation of divine plays presented first-hand in my own life-lived. Such accounts are the substance of this bound book, dear reader, presented for your entertainment, and perhaps for the enrichment of your own life-lived in this everyday world, where truth proves more than meets a mere two eyes . . .



There exists within the minds of many in the modern world a rather compromising division between what has been officially deemed rational truth, i.e., that which has been “scientifically proven” of the natural world, taxonomized and isolated in a laboratory setting under artificially controlled circumstances, and that which has been deemed “superstition,” or at best “supernatural” or “spiritual.” This dichotomy, emblematic of relatively recent ways of knowing in the philosophies of Europe and America, has created a stark separation between, say, religion and politics (though perhaps not so complete in practice as in theory), between physical sciences and the social sciences and humanities, and especially between practical living and mysticism. This is surely a symptom of the broader and indeed rampant compartmentalization of life in this modern (or postmodern/post-postmodern?) age, where once was arguably a more holistic way of being.

A farmer or blacksmith or scholar or merchant of times past did not divorce occupation from home, and finding some semblance of satisfaction in life did not assume an escape from the office or other place of employment. Similarly, religious or ritual practice did not take place solely on Sunday (or whatever given day, per whatever religion), but was in fact integrated into the everyday. Myth and the mundane, science and the spiritual, magic and material reality were similarly inseparable facets of life, the rhythms and rhyme of the day and night yet succinctly attuned to the natural world.

Though one can argue that there are benefits to current modes of dividing the day or week, or even to current conventions of separating ways of knowing, certain disparities and psychological conflicts unquestionably arise from these arrangements. Indeed, I might go so far as to argue that a selective blindness has o’ertaken the masses, something not unlike a tunnel vision that prevents most from seeing much of the beauty and wonder of life, an institutionalized myopia that shrouds a natural, magical, divine and eternal aesthetic that underlies and pervades all that is.

It was with something like a half-baked awareness of these notions that I set out to discover secrets hidden by the official institutions and popular paradigms, to reach for truth and beauty and divine love, to endeavor to discover a more complete aesthetic, and to seek to find myself—or better phrased from the perspective I now maintain, to find Self. Atman, brahman, the true and good Divine Self seeded within each and every and all as well as Universally present and pervasive, most succinctly and distinctly (in my humble but fairly well-informed opinion) expressed in said Sanskrit words. “God1” already present, rather than requiring an invitation and a bath. With some subtle awareness of this existence of something better and more valid, I wandered away from convention and conformity, parting with programmed presumptions and the purported truths presented me during years of education and social and religious training, and hit the open road.

What I discovered upon opening myself to the freedom of wandering the highways and wild places and sacred spaces of this land, by loosing my mind from the fetters of so called “common sense,” and upon learning to see with more than two eyes blew away the paradigms of church and university training and shattered the shallow assumptions and officially sanctioned presumptions generally made of experiential reality. On these journeys and intermittent sojourns I encountered shape-shifters and sasquatch, faeries and freakish, anomalous, serendipitous and synchronistic incidents that far surpassed expectations of what I’d imagined I’d discover upon disembarking from the programmed path and setting aside unnecessary societal expectations. The following short story accounts are a few of the more salient and readily recountable happenings from my journeys through time and space and mind.

To tell the truth of what’s to come in these forthcoming pages, these tales told in print are intertwined in time such that a clear chronology is not necessarily to be read in the progression from each account writ to the next. Some events are visited more than once within separately titled tales, to some extent tying these only somewhat temporally arranged narratives together in the midst of potentially confusing webs of causation and sequence. In other words, though each chapter does build upon or is built upon the others to some degree or other, this temporal progression is not without loops and reveries—indeed, as life experiences in a general sense are not necessarily granted meaning by strictly linear arrangements of memory, time and travel. Hopefully, then, the repetitions of certain accounts will serve to clarify or elucidate preceding or succeeding events which might otherwise have only minimal sequential grounding in the text, rather than proving redundant.

These things said, each chapter might nonetheless be read either as a separate and self-contained and fully satisfying story, as well as indeed part of an interwoven narrative which spans the expanse of the text, from page one to the end. The reader is therefore free to peruse any given chapter without feeling as if she or he has missed some vital element of a particular passage’s emplotment in pages skipped or in one story passed over to favor another, else she or he might choose to endeavor a more traditional linear reading. I might also note that these accounts were not necessarily penned in the sequence in which they appear in the text, and thus the tone, style and content included in each differ according to the inspiration, mood and memories that came to mind as I separately typed each tale.

The stories herein writ are mostly telling of time spent to some degree or other in-transit, of wanderings across the North American continent with in mind to discover evidences of magic and beauty and mystical truth still surviving somewhere underneath a sheen of American Dreamish normalcy. And as is the nature of a transit state—time and space being relative and so forth and certain bends and distortions, if not outright instances of “time-travel” as potentials whilst in such a state (again, by the principles of relativity and so forth)—a traveler in transit might not only find quite altered the linear appearance of an ordinary time line, but might even find the certainty of spatial continuity in question, if he or she looks closely enough to denote discrepancies. Home found at the end of a journey may indeed not be the same place left behind, once one has traveled afar. Or to offer another illustrative metaphor for the sort of time-space displacement possible to a truly open traveler, imagine jetlag-squared or cubed or times a thousand.

And these tales, though truly true-life accounts, are also journeys of and in Mind. Visions manifest from dream or imaginings directly onto the screen of “reality,” déjà vu, and extrasensory awakenings were indeed as much a part of the trip of these travels recorded as were simple reckonings of point “a” to “b” and “what happened” in-between. Indeed, whatever interconnectedness or “synchronicity” of time and space exists or what road magic is manifest to the wonderment of a traveler is conceived and wrought in and through Mind, thought, imagination and intentioned “manifestation,” and not merely via “rational” or “common sense” modes of causation. Thus, when you are told of unusual experiences or anomalies you encounter, “Oh, it’s all just in your mind,” you might justifiably and aptly reply, “Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real.”

To travel any distance in time through space conveys a very different consciousness than is active in a more routine state of life, especially when wandering to places unknown, as one peripatetically preoccupied is freed from psychological and psychic ties to everyday habitual practices, and his or her mind naturally opens to experiences and possibilities not normally granted attention in the midst of life lived nine-to-five. The traveler notices things otherwise overlooked—the shape of a cloud hanging over an unknown mountain peak, the scents traveling on the air at a market, the shapes of faces or a sparkle in the eyes of a stranger. A willing traveler is tuned-in to encounter alterity, difference, the possibility of novelty, and despite the seeming contradiction is also opened to an heretofore unknown unity with others and experiential reality. Travel thins the veils, and reveals the unity as well as relativity of time, space, mind and life-lived.

I will apologize in advance for a lack of engaging dialogues, with quote-bound conversations only sparsely interspersed within long stretches of narrative. I have done so to avoid potential misquotes, to prevent even the least misrepresentation, and to forgo inaccurate improvisation due to a lack of concise memories of specific exchanges. I fully intend to relate these events with as much verity and precision as I might, and thus must admit I have left out many interesting conversations for lack of perfect or even paraphrased accuracy. I shall surely include more dialogue when or if I try my hand at writing and publishing works of fiction.

As I recognize that much of the content of these accounts will be hard to swallow, and even more difficult to digest, I have gone to great lengths to be certain to avoid any distortion of events and to refrain from even slight embellishment. Indeed, everything I have written is accurate according to my perceptions and recollections and in many cases with other reliable witnesses present, though given the fantastic nature of much of what I have to tell I shall not hold it against the reader who questions what I represent in these accounts, and in fact would hope for a thoughtful and indeed critical response.

Simultaneously, however, I would hope these narratives (which, again, I stand by as true) will cause you, dear reader, to question the constructions of reality by which you have been trained to formulate your own perceptions of experience, and to open your eyes and other senses to the beauty and magic that exists only a short distance from the everyday consensual reality you’ve been so subtly (and sometimes surreptitiously) conditioned to believe.