Autobio Chapter 7
Me on my own,
No one to call on the phone
(Because I’ve alienated everyone at home).
All my acquaintances are new,
No one to tell me what to do.
I’ve got to see this life through,
So Ill just have to find a clue.
I had a deep sense of shame for honestly following what I thought was solid, professional advice only to find myself completely disenfranchised. I felt my life was a challenging puzzle that I had to solve myself. I didn’t even call Mary, who was also in the greater Los Angeles area, and wouldn’t learn of my plight until several months later.
I took the Greyhound bus to the Los Angeles central station. From there I took the city bus to Fairfax Avenue in Hollywood where the Diggers had their outreach to hippie runaways. The Diggers gave me leads for rooms and jobs. I found a room with a woman who was willing to wait for my first paycheck for her rent, and I found a job working in the kitchen of a Hungarian Restaurant. The only things on my resume up to that point were giving guitar lessons to a few friends and a little bit of babysitting, but I quickly learned how to dice vegetables and wash stacks of dishes.
It was a Mom and Pop operation, in fact the proprietors wanted to be called Mama and Papa. Mama was a large Hungarian immigrant with a warm demeanor.
The love-in at Griffith Park happened after I was out on my own. I was working for the restaurant and managed to get part of that Sunday (July 24, 1967) off so I could go. I took the bus to the park and walked around a bit. There was a police presence that I found somewhat intimidating after the Century City protest. I got back on the bus and went back to my room at Judy’s apartment. Judy didn’t seem to work. I knew she was not old enough to be a grandparent. I never found out how she supported herself.
A busboy at the restaurant was living at the House of Awareness on Hollywood and Vine. I moved there too and got a room of my own for $12 a month. Judy was sad to see me go.
My mother came for a short visit and to bring me more of my things, including my bicycle. She also had bought me a clock radio. She didn’t use either of the phrases she had repeated the day she and my dad threw me out. She seemed to want to be friends, but I had found that I liked being out from under her and Dad’s roof.
A guy at my rooming house sang On a Clear Day for me playing the jazz altered chords on the guitar. He had a very nice voice. Someone told me that the room I stayed in for several months had formerly been occupied by heroin addicts. Heroin is one thing I have never done. Still, if I had known then what I would learn years later about alcohol and drugs, I might have made better choices, but it would be over two decades before I would understand that to deliberately impair ones intellectual ability with substances known to have that effect is utter foolishness. We need all the intellectual fortitude we can get. How tragic to undermine it! I was a moderate user of marijuana and occasionally beer or dry wine, but even that was too much. Once I got drunk. I was curious to know why people did it. I wasn’t impressed at all. It was horrible!
I tried to attend school that fall while working. I enrolled in 15 units at Los Angeles City College. Then because the stress of overwork from the the work commitment, the school commitment, bicycling the streets of LA to commute long distances between my school, my job and my little room in the House of Awareness was too much for me, I became ill and dropped out of school. Anyway, what was the point in working toward a career with the cold war threatening to destroy the world in a nuclear holocaust?
March on Washington
I decided to go to the peace march in Washington DC when my friend, Norman, wanted to go and drive his car there.
I had already dropped out of school. I quit my job and paid up my rent for the next two weeks. Early in the morning we started out, driving East. Norman drove all day, then we spent the night in the car, just leaning back in the bucket seats. Sometime the next day the car started having problems. Norman traded it for a panel truck. The truck gave us more room to sleep at night, but then the truck stopped and we had to hitchhike the rest of the way. I left my coat in someone’s car.
Finally we got to Washington. People were providing hospitality. Norman and I claimed we were husband and wife and slept next to each other at someone’s apartment. Norman had a serious health problem. He didn’t look it, but he was dying. He was just living until he died.
The next morning thousands of people gathered at the Lincoln memorial. There were speeches and songs and lots of cheering. By that time nearly 20,000 Americans had died in Vietnam. In the evening we went to the Pentagon. There were lots of young soldiers guarding it. I talked to some of them asking how they liked the service. Then Norman found a ride for me in a colorfully decorated bus. He said he’d see me at the House of Awareness, but we didn’t meet up.
The bus broke down at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. After waiting a day for repair, I gave up and started hitchhiking. A man was really nice to me in Kansas City. He drove me a long ways, took me out for lunch and helped me make a sign. He shared with me about his devotion to Christ.
Then I met someone else also hitchhiking to LA. Soon I was back in my room.
When I returned from the march on Washington I became involved with Tani. I had known him before I left but after I got back he and I just seemed to evolve very quickly into an exclusive relationship. Tani was really nice to me.
I needed a job but the restaurant wouldn’t take me back because I had not given notice. I went to the state employment agency. They sent me out to a vacuum cleaner salesman who did nothing but sexually harass me from the time I arrived to the time I left. He decided he didn’t need me since I wasn’t interested in being his underpaid prostitute.
Tani wanted to get his children from his ex. She was a heroin addict, he said. Would I babysit? Soon I got to meet the children. I enjoyed being the stepmother to four of them, while the baby was still being cared for by her mother. Tani spoke fluent Spanish and I wished I had studied Spanish in school instead of French and German.
My cousin, Mary, came to visit me and my ready-made family at the House of Awareness in Hollywood and decided I needed rescuing. Mary convinced me to go back to my parents and follow their rules so I could finish my education.
“How old is your boyfriend, Jeremy?”
“About forty I think, but he seems younger.”
“How old are you?”
“You just had your birthday, right?”
“Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?”
“I don’t know.”
“Can’t you see where this is headed?”
I hung my head. I could, and it wasn’t a pretty picture. I really wanted to have a little fun before I got tied down to a family of seven. Five children now and what was stopping us from having more? Nothing. I wasn’t using birth control, and abortions were still illegal at the time.
“And, Jeremy, I hate to say this, but you’re getting fat!”
It was true! Years later I would still have stretch marks from the weight I had put on with Tani’s menus, weight I would suddenly lose with my parents’ menus.
Mary also persuaded my parents to take me back, but I don’t know how she did that.
I would be home for Christmas. Tani had given me a little money for babysitting and I tried to buy something for each of my siblings.
After entering the house I picked up my little sister and held her for a long time. I had just been a stepmother to a girl close to her in age.
It was difficult leaving my new family, nevertheless, I did it. Years later, I would still wonder about Daria, Yvonne, Gabriel and Athena. Their ages ranged from 3 to 8 years old.
Looking back later, I would believe that what Mary did was to my benefit. How could I have the four wonderful children I would eventually have if I had stayed with a man who already had five children and was working hard to care for them?
I wasn’t in love. I had become jaded about love. I didn’t believe in it anymore. Just find someone you like. That is the best you can do, I thought. I enjoyed being the center of Tani’s world, while others, including myself, were just sampling experiences.
I used one of Tani’s menus with my birth family, and my brothers appreciated it. It was tostadas. I used olive oil instead of lard for frying the tortillas and the refried beans. I prepared the chopped vegetables and shredded cheese in separate bowls like Tani and I had done for his family.
I saw Tani again once, a month or two after I had left. He drove up to Fallbrook with the children to see me. He also had 12-month-old Dindia, whom I had not previously met, being cradled in Athena’s arms. He assured me that they were doing all right.
I enrolled in Palomar College for the spring semester and joined the Peace and Freedom Club. My favorite records were Sergeant Pepper by the Beatles and Golden Thumb by Wes Montgomery. I gave guitar lessons in a travel trailer parked in the RV parking area. My students included the wife of a former dentist, and Mrs. Schmidt, the wife of my little sister’s 4th grade teacher.
Kasey, in the fourth grade, was the pride of the family for her brave stand against false rumors of sexual predation being circulated by girls in her class, and some of the parents, against their teacher, Mr. Schmidt.
I was a community college sophomore at the time and knew Mr. Schmidt. In fact, I was giving guitar lessons to his wife. I too found it impossible to believe that Mr. Schmidt would have done anything inappropriate with the girls in his class. He, however, had one very unusual trait. Foreign born from Germany, he was demonstratively affectionate, hugging you when he saw you, and then again when you parted ways. Kasey and I really appreciated this, never having received quite enough affection at home.
Other girls turned it into something dirty, smirking that Mr. Schmidt’s hand occasionally strayed onto their bottoms, perhaps even underneath their dresses.
Kasey and the boys of her class spent the school day in the classroom with their maligned teacher one day while the rest of the class was at the zoo as a reward for testifying.
Mr. Schmidt took a job with a private school on the other end of the county, leaving voluntarily, as nothing was proven against him. I would visit them years later when I was to live in Chula Vista.
I read several books on yoga from the library at Palomar College, including: Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda, and Fundamentals of Yoga by Rammurti S. Mishra. From the directions in the Mishra book I learned to put myself in a light trance by autosuggestion. I arranged pillows on the floor and against a wall in my bedroom and, wrapped in a sleeping bag, suggested to each body part in turn that I was withdrawing sensation from it. The resulting trance state was something like sleep, but with more awareness. My attention was turned fully inward.
I became interested in the spiritual centers. Dr. Mishra called them chakras,which in English translates as wheels. They appear to seers as energy vortexes resembling wheels. Dr. Mishra explained something about spiritual energy (what he called Prana). I learned about kundalini, which was explained to be like a serpent coiled at the base of the spine that could be awakened and brought up to the higher levels of creativity, a fiery personal energy. The chakras very rapidly became intuitive with me. I could sense the different ones and what energies were effecting them.
I was so moved by Autobiography of a Yogithat I subscribed to the Self Realization literature for awhile. I put posters of Yogananda and his gurus up in the room in the trailer where I meditated and gave guitar lessons. I felt close to Yogananda and all his gurus. I was impressed with Yogananda’s instructions to salute all great masters as you begin your meditation session. There seemed to be no the conflict between Christianity and yoga. I could believe both and did.
My friend from gradeschool, Leslie, and I still corresponded. She was in Peterborough, New Hampshire. We were both getting into yoga at the same time.
After helping to butcher a pig, not the first pig I had ever helped butcher, but after reading about yoga and the vegetarian yoga diet, and about a year and a half after seeing Krishnamurti and having dinner with a vegetarian family, I realized I didn’t want to be part of butchering any more. Had I not done any butchering personally, and merely bought meat in packages, it may have never hit home the way it did after watching that pig suffer and die for my meals. I knew very little about vegetarianism, didnt know what menu choices were available to satisfy, and went back and forth for awhile. Eventually I did learn how to eat without violence to animals, but it took over a decade.
Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by a sniper’s bullet in the face while standing on the balcony of a Memphis motel. He had planned on speaking in support of striking garbage collectors in that city the next day.
I had already had two semesters of German, fall 1966 and spring of 1967, but after living on my own in LA, I had come to understand that learning Spanish would allow me to participate in more conversations in California then learning German would. So for the spring of 1968 semester I enrolled in first semester Spanish. My former German teacher was the advisor of the Palomar Campus Crusade. Mr. Norlan drove me to a Campus Crusade retreat in the Cuyamaca Mountains.
At the retreat a young woman my age sat with me and read a passage from the Bible (1 Corinthians 13) about love. She was friendly and only a little paternalistic as she read to me from the Bible while making commentary. It actually was quite sweet. I bought a picture of Jesus and hung it up in the rec room where three years later I would host a meeting of Jesus People. I also met Ray.
After the retreat Ray and I went on a date. He picked me up on a motorcycle. He lived in San Diego with a pastor, we told my parents. We didnt mention that the pastor wasnt home that weekend. We stopped at La Jolla Cove for an informal talk in the park by a youthful pastor addressing a group of young people all sitting cross-legged in the grass. He spoke on the importance of prayer and finding the will of God.
Ray and I eagerly headed for his room where we had the rare opportunity to enjoy a romantic encounter. Two years after falling in love with Ed, I had fallen in love again. Then the same thing happened again. Ray was facing the draft and, rather than serve 3 years as a draftee, he enlisted for two, this time into the airforce.
Back then I was looking for a partner who would not allow his body to be used as a weapon of war, like Buffy Sainte-Marie and I sing. I felt that my father’s military service, during world war II, was what had made him so heavy handed with my brothers and me. I did not want a military man raising my children.
I would hug Ray one final time when he came to see me at the apartment I would get in Pasadena. He would make a quick stop to see me before shipping out to Vietnam, where, after the short training he was receiving, as I finished up my third semester in college, he would fly bombing missions over North Vietnam. Another Air Force man would be with him when Ray and I would see each other for the last time.
Decades later my second born daughter would have a dream about her dad being starved in a barb wire enclosure. I would figure that her dream was about the man who might have been her father had he returned from Vietnam and would write the following song lyric:
Bones in Vietnam
He was strong, he was fit, he was smart, he was kind,
This obedient youth, he was called, so he signed.
When I saw him in uniform, I couldn’t speak,
Didn’t think I could wait, my poor heart was too weak.
‘Twas an anguished decision that he must have made:
Physical death if he went, mental death if he stayed;
And he wanted to fight for a just righteous cause,
So he tried to believe ‘tho the logic had flaws.
Well he learned to fly planes and he learned to drop bombs,
And he sprayed agent orange any dispersed napalm.
He was young, he was scared, but they told him to go,
So he went and he did what they said, did he know?
When his plane was shot down he was taken alive,
With such rations he got, he could barely survive.
His release never came when the U.S. pulled out,
And by now of his death, there is such little doubt.
There are bones in Vietnam that were once loved by me,
And the flesh of that man, I won’t ever again see.
But a part of my heart lies interred with that skull,
I’ve gone on with my life but I yearn for him still.
Robert F. Kennedy
On June 5, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy was mortally wounded shortly after midnight Pacific Daylight Time at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. He was a presidential candidate.
In his final Senate speech on Vietnam, Robert Kennedy said, “Are we like the God of the Old Testament that we can decide, in Washington, DC, what cities, what towns, what hamlets in Vietnam are going to be destroyed?… Do we have to accept that?… I do not think we have to. I think we can do something about it.”
The shooting took place shortly after claiming victory in that California’s Democratic primary. Near the exit of the hotel, Kennedy was shot three times by a revolver from close behind. He was hit by one bullet behind his right ear. The other two hit him in the back. One bullet exited from his chest and the other lodged in the back of his neck. He was rushed to a nearby hospital and had surgery remove the bullet and bone fragments from his brain. He passed away 26 hours after the shooting. Kennedy was 42 years old.
Five bystanders were also wounded. The assailant was apprehended and remains in prison, but, like the assassinations of Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy, some believe that the one convicted, or suspected, of the crime did not act alone.