"There are those who choose a big-screen life and then act it all out at the center of Shakespeare's stage. Alex Apostolides, a real-life Indiana Jones counterpart was such a man. He chose adventure, colorful friends, and to walk with Carlos Castaneda along a path with heart."
BILL GANN: The Teachings of Don Alex
In a Footnote to the The Tree I write that sometime during the mid to late 1960s while visiting the mining camp compound of an old Mojave Desert prospector by the name of Walt Bickel I was introduced to a man named Alex Apostolides. In those days Apostolides was doing a variety archaeological surveys and said to be a Field Director in archaeology for UCLA.(see) Taking him at his word, in a general small talk sort of a way I mentioned I knew an undergraduate student named Carlos Castaneda who had, around the same time, attended UCLA in the same department as Apostolides and was nefariously known for his avid interest in field work. I also told him the last time I had seen Castaneda was from across the room several years earlier, sitting in a Greyhound bus station in Nogales, Arizona.
I continue in the Footnote saying that the bus station encounter, unknown to me at the time, and what continued to be so even up to and beyond the time I met Apostolides --- and seemingly unimportant to Apostolides at the time as well --- turned out to be Castaneda's infamous Nogales Bus Station Meeting where he claimed to have met the mainstay in all his books, Don Juan Matus. Well, some people took issue with what I wrote implying I discounted any role Apostolides may have played, if any, in Castaneda's books. To straighten me out some refered me to the works of one Bill Gann who also met Apostolides along the way as well. Always in search of discovering new truths or refining old truths, I went to Gann's site. In regards to Castaneda and Apostolides, Gann writes:
"(Castaneda) and Alex were colleagues at UCLA back in the Sixties. The great sorcerer discussed the shamanic world with Alex, long before he published his many mystical books.
"One wonders if Castaneda learned a thing or two from Apostolides, and if some of this knowledge later turned up in the guru's mystic writings. As an archeologist, Alex knew Mexico well and worked the ancient Aztec and Maya digs for many years. He was in the archeology department at UCLA when Castaneda was still working on his thesis that was later published as "The Teachings of Don Juan." Some have even implied that Alex was Castaneda's model for his famous Yaqui Indian sorcerer."(source)
When Apostolides and I met at Bickel's Camp, Castaneda's first Don Juan book was yet to be published. Because of same, except perhaps for Barbara Myerhoff who was a friend and graduate student in the anthropology department at UCLA at the exact same time Castaneda was working on his dissertation, I, along with almost everybody else in the world was not privilege to how important the bus station encounter would be in the overall context of his writings. Matter of fact, except for hearing about in a roundabout way of an uncompleted nonfiction manuscript Castaneda attempted to write in his very early years he called "Dial Operator," I didn't even know he was writing a book --- that is, until Apostolides told me --- and even then there is no way I would have known the content or subject matter. I mean, when I first met Castaneda he was a struggling artist enrolled at Los Angeles City College and not anywhere near ready to go to UCLA, all the while working for Mattel Toy Company making decals or something.(see) However, if Apostolides was a Castaneda confidant as intimated, as I look back, then surely he would have been privy to the initial meeting, when, where and how, between Castaneda and Don Juan. Yet when I mentioned having seen Castaneda in the bus station in Nogales at the end of the summer of 1960 I don't recall Apostolides gasping for air or even blinking his eyes over it one way or the other. I mean, how many end of the summer of 1960s in Nogales bus stations opportunities could Castaneda have had?
There is no doubt that Apostolides and Castaneda knew each other and Castaneda may very well have discussed the shamanic world with him as suggested. However, discussing it and focusing that discussion on being the major imputus by jacking it up to be the central core of a specific book or series of books is, it seems, at least from my perspective, somewhat iffy. I know it was only a few years before Castaneda wasn't discussing anything remotely close with anybody I knew he knew. Learning a "thing or two" from Apostolides and stretching that thing or two into Castaneda's model for his famous Yaqui Indian sorcerer is a total other thing. True, more than six years had gone by since I had seen Castaneda at the bus station and the time of my meeting with Apostolides for the first time at Bickel's Camp, BUT, although I clarify what I think most likely transpired below, I can assure you that nobody who looked or acted like Apostolides was in the bus station during any of the time I was there that day. If he was a model for Don Juan, Castaneda must have inserted him AFTER the events leading up to and in the bus station as outlined in the Introduction Scenes. The bus station meeting between Castaneda and Don Juan is KEY to all that goes on. Without the bus station encounter between Castaneda and Don Juan then nothing that follows would have.
So, what's the answer?
As Castaneda moved closer and closer toward his own vision of his goals --- and became potentially more and more successful financially while doing it, all the while leaving old friends and many of his academic superiors behind in possibly their own eyes and the eyes of others --- it appears he began running into an ever increasing series of rebuffs and roadblocks. Inturn he became more and more careful as to who and what he revealed --- even as he had to reach out to gain and garner more valid and conclusive information. As for what Apostolides may or may not have known it could be several things. First, he could have been under censor from Castaneda not to discuss or respond to what they shared --- and for sure, he didn't know me from Adam. Secondly, Apostolides could have simply put himself into the picture afterwards as time passed at a higher and higher level of importance. Third, since Castaneda carried a staunch predilection toward holding his cards close to his vest during both his early and later years he could have brought in Apostolides as a confidant with information flowing only one way --- from Apostolides to Castaneda. If such was the case, and I think it most likely was, at the time Apostolides would not have been privy to the bus station encounter or its importance any more than anybody else, including myself.
Apostolides, although he got to know Castaneda better later, didn't know him well in the early 1960s period I am talking about above. But, in conversation at Bickel's Camp he did eventually confide in me, inturn substantiating Bill Gann's thesis in a roundabout way, how he met Castaneda for the first time. He remembered it well because of the circumstances. He had gone to the UCLA campus near the end of the semester for one reason or the other that he was unable recall and Castaneda was either in the Department office or going to or from a professor's office turning in papers when he bumped into him. The reason he remembers it so well is because Castaneda, who he had never seen before prior to that moment, was traveling with a teacher's assistant that Apostolides knew had a reputation for hating field work. After a brief introduction the T.A. told him that they had just returned from participating in a dig in Arizona and, not only that, the two of them would be going back in a couple of days to help shut down the dig for the summer.(see)
Apostolides said at the time of that first meeting Castaneda was not, of course, the Castaneda people would eventually come to know. As a matter of fact, Apostolides related that their first meeting, in regards to Castaneda himself, was not very memorable at all. He said so because one day, a year or so after that meeting, basically out of the nowhere, Castaneda stepped up to him as though they were life long friends and it actually took Apostolides a few minutes to put together how they even knew each other. The main thrust of that first meeting was because Castaneda just happened to be traveling with the teaching assistant that day. Apostolides said he remembered the T.A. all right, and thus then eventually Castaneda. The T.A. told Apostolides that the two of them were on some archaeological dig in Arizona and that he, the T.A., "was running out of time academically" and was down there on "loan" to another professor from another university to pad his resume' with field work experience on UCLA's dime.(see)
Following several years of on-and-off archaeologist related work in Mexico (as well as a few other places) Apostolides settled down in El Paso, Texas. Then, ten years after the two of us met at Bickel's Camp --- as well as being the same ten year period after Castaneda's first book was published --- that is, circa 1978 plus-or-minus a year or two, he was on his way back from Utah after having participated in a study that had to do with rock art. He had come across an ancient Native American petrograph that he thought might depict the Crab Nebula super nova of 1054 AD. Apostolides contacted a professor at UCLA given credit for having introduced Carlos Castaneda to shamanism by the name of Clement Meighan who had discovered similar petrographs on the Baja peninsula in 1962. Meighan suggested several people close by in the general Utah, New Mexico area that might help to confirm Apostolides' suspicions, of which my uncle was one.
It was through the suggestion from Meighan that my Uncle and Apostolides first crossed paths initially. What was staggering to Apostolides, after all of the small talk and introductions morphed into serious business, was that my uncle's brother (my father) was one of Walt Bickel's oldest friends. As written about in The Tree, my father knew Bickel from the very eary days and was actually Bickel's VERY FIRST mining partner. During Bickel's later years, the time we are talking about here, Apostolides and Bickel had developed a very close friendship. As it was, Apostolides thought so much of Bickel and the area he operated in that he had his ashes dispersed at the base of Black Mountain just north of Bickel's camp when he died --- which all tied together laid the groundwork for a strong mutual understanding between Apostolides and my uncle.
The overall outcome of the petrograph's status or any depiction thereof that set the meeting into motion in the first place is not known. However, when casual conversation between Apostolides and my uncle somehow turned to Castaneda --- AND how it was related back to me by my uncle a few years later --- Apostolides, at least by the time of the late 1970s meeting we are talking about here, had met William Lawrence Campbell and was aware by then that Campbell was the "Bill" in Castaneda's works.(see)
Apostolides told my uncle that before he went into Mexico the archaeological team he was coordinating his efforts with was looking to recruit one or two additional team members and Campbell showed up as a potential candidate. Campbell had come highly recommended, however, since the archaeological investigations centered around Mayan sites in Mexico and possibly other countries such as Honduras, Guatemala, et al, any dig workers over any extended period of time would be required to have passports. The thing is, and unusually so for an experienced archaeologist, Campbell did not have a passport. At first the interviewers thought he just needed to renew his, but, as it turned out, he said he never had one.
Prior to any of those formal interview session and it became clear that Campbell would not be able to participate, Apostolides --- who was not part of the interview team and maybe even being recruited himself --- and Campbell had sat around in casual conversations quaffing down a few beers over a period of several days bullshitting. How or why the topic of Castaneda came up in the first place I don't know as I was not made privy to all the subtle intricacies of their ensuing discussions as they unfolded, nor could Apostolides recall any of the specifics. However, in that both had fairly high levels of prior interactions with Castaneda at one time or the other and the timing of their meeting was such that it was before critics had torn Castaneda to shreds, knowing him on a personal level was plus --- so, bragging rights not withstanding --- it would not be unusual for one or the other or both to interject Castandeda as a subject of conversation.
During those conversations, because Apostolides knew Bickle and also knew my dad had been Bickle's first mining partner, he told Campbell that he had met me sometime before Castaneda's first book was published. He also told Campbell that I had told him I had seen Castaneda and another man I knew sitting together and talking at a bus station in Nogales at the end of the summer of 1960. Campbell said he also knew me, having met me a few times in conjunction with my uncle, the last time being maybe 1968 or so in Taos, New Mexico. However, in a very positive confirmation of the facts he did admit to Apostolides it was true that he had been at the bus station with Castaneda at the time so stated and was sure that if ANYBODY claimed they saw Castaneda sitting there with another man, he (Campbell) most likely was the other man. BUT, and he was sure of this, he did not recall seeing me there. He did say he and Castaneda had met with my uncle a few weeks before in the desert but there was no sign of me traveling or being with my uncle at the time that he could recollect. He also said when he and I had met ten years before (i.e., circa 1968) in Taos and we had breakfast or lunch together --- a rather extended meal that spanned a respectable period of time --- I didn't bring it up or say anything one way or the other about having had seen him in Nogales.
AND NOW THIS:
For the record, I like Bill Gann's stuff. He has put together a lot of fun, entertaining and interesting reads. Especially enjoyed his "The Ganns Move To California" found among his sidebar links. I even Googled his childhood home to see how close it was in proximity to Disneyland and the 91 Freeway. Just a quick note to the readers however, regarding the following from Gann's quote from above:
"He (Apostolides) was in the archeology department at UCLA when Castaneda was still working on his thesis that was later published as 'The Teachings of Don Juan.'"
"THE TEACHINGS OF DON JUAN: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge" (1968) was Castaneda's first book and published several years before he received his Doctorate. Teachings was accepted as his master's thesis. His third book, "JOURNEY TO IXTLAN: The Lessons of Don Juan" (1972), in its final published form is virtually indistinguishable from his doctoral dissertation titled "Sorcery: A Description of the World" that Castaneda turned in for his UCLA PhD.
In a continuing theme on Alex Apostolides, sometime back in the MetaFilter weblog a person calling herself nickyskye (AKA Victoria Barlow, nickyskye [at] gmail [dot] com) in response to a post that read:
Castaneda "worked with a Cahuilla on a reservation near Palm Springs, and then went out on the Colorado River and worked with a few Indians there. . . . . Ultimately, he found one man who related a great deal of information about Jimson weed (Datura inoxia) and it was that information that served as the basis of Carlos’ undergraduate paper . . . ."
posted the following question regarding Apostolides:
Could this person who taught Castaneda about jimson weed have been Alex Apostolides?
Bill Gann, after outlining how well he knew Apostolides and the depth and lengths of their talks about Castaneda responded with the following:
"Jimson Weed, he never mentioned. But, true enough, he knew much about magic plants and did talk of 'cememonies' he had experiened. Who knows?"
Other than the above, totally bypassing any mention of who the Cahuilla was or might have been, nickyskye's question was not answered to the point where the "one man who related a great deal of information about Jimson weed" was identified, nor did it come up how to resolve the answer even to the point of Gann posing the "Who Knows?" portion of his post. The answer is made quite clear in the following two websites: The Informant and Carlos Castaneda and CASTANEDA, DON JUAN: Datura or Peyote?. Matter of fact, The Informant and Carlos Castaneda actually opens with the following paragraph:
"Deep in the desert southwest, before Carlos Castaneda met the Shaman-sorcerer that became famous in his series of Don Juan books, Castaneda had a chance encounter with a somewhat mysterious hallucinogenic bio-searcher and mushroom hunter from the Taos, Santa Fe, New Mexico area. It has been chronicled that the bio-searcher, known only as the informant in various Castaneda writings, some written by Castaneda himself, some by others, and some even written by those not always sympathetic toward Castaneda, agree for the most part --- unsympathetic or not --- that the informant was the actual person that FIRST introduced Castaneda to the rituals and use of medicinal plants."
Jimson weed should have been on the forefront of discussion as it was the MOST important of the plants introduced to Castaneda by Don Juan. Re, the following as found in CASTANEDA, DON JUAN: Datura or Peyote?:
"Sacred Datura --- known throughout the desert southwest as jimsonweed --- played the primary role in his early experiences into other realities --- including, it must be said, his most famous and most oft cited experience where he turned into a crow and flew."
Victoria Barlow studied Buddhism in Dharamsala, India, it is said at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. It has been reported elsewhere she has the ability to translate Sanskrit into Tibetan, an ability she denies.(see)
CASTANEDA'S 1960s PAPER ON DATURA
THE TEACHINGS OF DON ALEX
THE BEST OF
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THE- WANDERLING'S- JOURNEY
ON THE RAZOR'S
A breakdown on Apostolides' professional background is as follows according to the source:
From 1958 to 1969, Apostolides was a Field Director for UCLA doing salvage excavations and archaeological surveys, mainly along the Pacific coast and in the Mojave desert. From 1963 to 1967 he was the Senior Museum Preparator in the Museum and Lab of Ethnic Arts and Technology at UCLA. From 1969 to 1974, he worked in Mexico as an archaeologist, photographer and feature writer. And from 1976 to 1979 he worked in El Paso and in Saudi Arabia as a narrator, writer and producer of video training films.(source)
The following is being presented to clarify WHAT a Field Director in archaeology IS:
A Field Director is defined as the person authorized by the permit holder to direct the permitted work in the field so that appropriate expertise is available to make key methodological decisions, e.g., shovel test sampling, the need to excavate evaluative units, the need to screen excavated soils. It is NOT a professor position, typically not eligible nor qualify for tenure, nor do they have assigned classroom lecture responsbilities, neither too, is a PhD a requirement.
For an individual who is a Field Director but not the permit holder, the following requirements and conditions apply:
MA degree in archaeology, or anthropology with a specialty in archaeology, or BA degree with an equivalent combination of post-graduate training and experience.
BARBARA G. MYERHOFF
Myerhoff, who was working on her her dissertation --- that was eventually published as The Deer-Maize-Peyote Complex Among the Huichol Indians of Mexico (1974) --- and Castaneda met at UCLA in the early spring of 1966. As that spring moved through to the end of summer they were seeing a lot of each other as they both continued to delve deeper and deeper into their own writing and research in the library everyday --- on basically the same subject. In an interview with Richard De Mille, the author of The Don Juan Papers (1980), De Mille asks Myerhoff when she first saw Castaneda's manuscript to THE TEACHINGS OF DON JUAN, A Yaqui Way of Knowledge (1968). Myerhoff responded with:
"That August(of 1966). He was so disgusted with it he threatened to burn it. I took it home with me for a few days and told him I was going to xerox it and keep a copy. I was afraid he might actually destroy it. We went over a lot of it together. I remember telling him it was pointless to put in that awful 'Structural Analysis.' And the term 'sorcerer,' which I felt he misused. And 'Yaqui,' for which there seemed no cultural justification. I didn't like the name 'don Juan,' which I thought was too much like the literary prototype and therefore confusing. I wanted him to call the book A Path With Heart, and leave out 'sorcerer' and 'Yaqui' altogether. We argued endlessly about those things, but he went ahead and did everything his own way. I think history has proved my criticisms right, but that's another story. Anyway, it was the beginning of a long and curious friendship. Later we would have sporadic, intense meetings every six months or so, when we'd talk all day or through the night." (source)
Please notice Myerhoff's suggestion to Castaneda for a potential title change to his book. She wanted him to call it "A Path With Heart." In an incredible coincidence, unless he was privy to Meyerhoff's rather obscure quote, Bill Gann, in his quote used at the top of this page, speaking of Apostolides, says:
"He chose adventure, colorful friends, and to walk with Carlos Castaneda along a path with heart."
That's why I like Gann's stuff, his insight.
Either at the archaeology site or sometime during the Road Trip that led to his encounter with the Informant, Castaneda crossed paths with the younger colleague of one of the dig professors. The colleague told Castaneda that he would be better off going back to the library at UCLA and simply sitting around researching what he needed from their huge catalog of herbalists' books. As a so-called respected authority in his field it was his opinion that everything anybody would ever want to know about medicinal plants from the desert southwest had already been delt with, both in being classified, cataloged and published to-no-end. Most likely he said, they could be found sitting around totally unused and collecting nothing but dust on the shelves at UCLA.
Learning that the respected authority in his field, i.e., the colleague, was making a quick couple days roundtrip trip to Los Angeles, Castaneda convinced him that he, Castaneda, had now, since their discussion, developed all honorable intentions of implementing his suggestions into doing nothing but library research on traditional curing instead of wasting any future time on field research. However, he told the respected authority, to do so he would have to maintain a continued clear and unqualified enrollment at UCLA. For that to happen required Castaneda to turn in all of his current field research papers and other classwork to the proper professors in an orderly and timely fashion prior to the end of the spring semester AND have them be accepted. Since the timing was right, the professor's young colleague, not grasping Castaneda's semi-deceitful stretching of the truth in regards to library research, but instead, only impressed with Castaneda's willingness to take his suggestions to heart, was more than happy ensure just such a thing would happen.(source)
Regarding the younger colleague come authority in the field, the following, in Castaneda's own words, is from THE ACTIVE SIDE OF INFINITY, A TREMOR IN THE AIR: A Journey To Power (1998):
"I went to Arizona to talk to anthropologists who were actually doing field work there. By then, I was ready to give up on the whole idea. I understood what the two professors were trying to tell me. I couldn't have agreed with them more. My attempts at doing fieldwork were definitely simpleminded.
"Yet I wanted to get my feet wet in the field. I didn't want to do only library research.
"In Arizona, I met with an extremely seasoned anthropologist who had written copiously on the Yaqui Indians of Arizona as well as those of Sonora, Mexico. He was extremely kind. He didn't run me down, nor did he give me any advice. He only commented that the Indian societies of the Southwest were extremely isolationist, and that foreigners, especially those of Hispanic origin, were distrusted, even abhorred, by those Indians.
"A younger colleague of his, however, was more outspoken. He said that I was better off reading herbalists' books. He was an authority in the field, and his opinion was that anything to be known about medicinal plants from the Southwest had already been classified and talked about in various publications."
If the so-called colleague was actually "only" just a T.A. as stated by Apostolides or possibly some other higher up UCLA professional such as a lecturer or professor as seems to be infered by Castaneda in the above, is not known. I am only passing on the words of Apostolides, thus then, his knowledge or understanding of the subject, as told to me by Apostolides.
As people work their way up through the college-university system sometimes T.A.s become lecturers, instructors, etc., etc. If Apostolides met the colleague when he was a T.A. then no matter how high he worked his way up in the system there is a chance he would still remain a T.A. in Apostolides knowledge of him.
There have been a few complaints regarding a certain ambiguousness or lack of specifics regarding some of the stated time-date references of the events so cited between Apostolides and my uncle. For example: "Sometime in or around 1978 (plus-or-minus a year or two)" and "at least by the time of their meeting in the late 1970s." Those so expressing such concerns have placed, it seems, within the context of those concerns, a slight whiff of suspicion that the lack of specific dates implies in some fashion that maybe what has been presented may not have transpired at all.
When Apostolides and my uncle crossed paths I was living in Jamaica, having left during the winter of 1977 after being in Hong Kong earlier in the year. Just into the fall/winter of 1978 I began apprenticing under a Jamaican man of spells called an Obeah, not returning until the spring of 1981. By the time I got back and my uncle and I resumed our discussions on a regular basis it had been a few years since he and Apostolides had participated in their talks. Even then, initially, none of it was on the forefront of OUR conversations --- and by the time it did come up my uncle just didn't have any specific dates at his command. That is to say, sometime around 1978 or late in the 1970s Apostolides looked him up to see if my uncle could add any insight into the potential super nova petrograph he discovered. My uncle knew it was sometime in the late 70s because I was gone. Other than that he never recorded any of it for posterity.
After my return from Jamaica the sharing of information between my uncle and I was quickly coming to a close because, unbeknownst to either of us, on his side we were simply reaching a point he was running out of time. A few years after my return, my uncle, by then possibly sensing the potential of things to come, without a word, embarked on a personal expedition to explore the Vortexes at Machu Picchu high in the Andes of South America. Afterwards he traveled over to the Brazilian side to bio-search the
banisteriopsis caapi vine associated with the Ayahuasca Sorcerer's Brew along the upper reaches of the Amazon when he broke his leg. Returning to the United States, weak from the complications of that break, with dementia sneaking in and his body defenses down, cancer took over and in May of 1989 at age eighty-six, he died.
The other problem people have is why didn't any of the information flow the other way. In other words, Apostolides didn't seem to share any outcome of any meeting with my uncle that anybody is aware of, and especially so anything regarding any contact between himself and William Lawrence Campbell and Campbell being "Bill" in Castaneda's writings. I am not able to speak for Apostolides. I talked with him quite a number of hours one evening with a group of desert folk at Bickel's camp before hitting the sack way past midnight --- but, that was over 40 years ago --- so I really can't say what made him tick one way or the other. To get a better handle on Apostolides and why he might do or not do anything I defer to the works of Bill Gann, who, according to what he has to say on his web pages, had developed a rather long term friendship with him. From Gann's own writings:
"Alex recalled on the rare occasion he would discuss his relationship with Castaneda, 'was to keep one foot firmly planted in reality. Carlito didn't listen, and often lost his way.'" Alex certainly never claimed any particular influence on Castaneda. Then, there was much about the wandering Greek I didn't know. I was, after all, a foolish young man in the days Alex lived at Bickel Camp. Perhaps he didn't feel I was worthy of the topic.
"It seems Alex had simply experienced much success, knew a myriad of famous people, and had so many interesting life experiences, he didnt have time to tell the whole story. That, and there was much of his narrative he didn't want told. In fact, when I first wrote an early version of this bio, he reviewed it and said something like, 'Yea, yea, that's good enough,' by way of critique. Then he asked that some really good parts be removed. Years ago Alex was also upset with me for publishing the 1972 story about Walt Bickel. To me getting the first story about Walt Bickel in print in California State Universitys Daily Titan was a great triumph. Alex felt I had blown the cover of a place that we should keeping a secret."(source)
The rare occasion he would discuss his relationship with Castaneda --- that pretty much clarifies Apostolides position it would seem and why, maybe, not a whole lot filtered down from the events told to me by my uncle.
It is not known with a 100% certainy if Castaneda returned to the desert with the T.A. and/or afterwards stayed in the desert for any length of time or went back and forth on a regular basis. Again, in those days Castaneda was a nobody and his movements were not being tracked or monitored by anybody of any note. If some people saw him at UCLA they may have had the impression he was there all the time. If some people saw him in the desert they my have thought he was in the desert all the time. Apostolides saw him coming and going and may have thought that's what he did all the time. Castaneda's own accounting of the facts, backed up by a few outside observers, has him in the desert at least from late spring to mid-late summer (i.e., his road trip with Bill, then his meeting with Don Juan Matus in the bus station in Nogales). He returned to UCLA at least once prior to the end of the spring semester in order to turn in paperwork as attested to by Apostolides, apparently returning to the desert. He then returned to UCLA on the bus from Nogales late in the summer but sometime prior to the start of the fall semester 1960. We know that because during that same summer he met Joan (Joanie) Barker who worked in the library at UCLA.
Although Castaneda was still married to Margaret Runyan, Mary Joan (Joanie) Barker is often cited as his girlfriend during the time period we are talking about here. She usually gets the lion's share of credit for originally taking him to the Morongo Indian Reservation near her childhood home of Banning, California, as well as setting into motion an introduction to the venerated Cahuilla shaman Salvador Lopez.
Continually in my works I maintain that Castaneda's 1960s Paper On Datura was turned in at the end of the spring semester of 1960, a paper that contained all the information that he supposedly learns over one full year later from Don Juan between August 23 and September 10, 1961. By the time Castaneda met Barker and received an introduction to Lopez, he had already turned in his paper and was yet to meet Don Juan Matus. Therefore, neither Lopez nor Don Juan could have had any instrumental impact.
Both the first meeting and the timing of the first meeting between Barker and Castaneda most usually rests on the oft repeated statement reportedly from Douglass Price-Williams that Barker was a librarian at UCLA sometime in the summer of 1960 and it was during that summer, July or August of 1960, that Castaneda and Barker met. The question is, from what source or under what circumstances did the facts behind the statement originate? I, of course, fully accept the Price-Williams timeline because it substantiates and strengthens MY thesis that it was the person called the Informant in Castaneda's works and by me that introduced him to datura and the shamanistic rituals he later uses and bases his Don Juan stories on. Don Juan and Castanedaophiles, pro or con, selectively ignore or overlook what has been presented by me in The Informant and Carlos Castaneda even though it wasn't me that created the dates or timelines presented by Castaneda --- nor was it me who originally presented the Price-Williams statement in the wider media as being accurate or even existing.
For example, Corey Donovan, creator of the online Castaneda website and forum Sustained Action, in SALVADOR LOPEZ: One of Castaneda's Original Informants? writes:
"The Cahuilla reservations are near Palm Springs, and thus not far from Los Angeles. They are very near the place where Joanie Barker grew up, and she is known to regularly attend their annual festival. It has been speculated that Joanie, who first met up with Castaneda in the summer of 1960 and soon became his girlfriend, would have taken him out to the reservation she was familiar with when she learned he was taking a class (from Clement Meighan) on shamanism."(source)
The following, also found in Sustained Action, only this time in PRELUDE TO DON JUAN: Castaneda's Early Years, pretty much repeats the summer of 1960 meeting and cites Price-Williams specifically:
"Summer 1960 - Mary Joan Barker (Joanie), whom Castaneda later describes to the Sunday group as 'don Juan's first student,' becomes involved with Castaneda. [Douglass Price-Williams, a UCLA professor and friend of Castaneda (and, for a time in the early '70's, Florinda's dissertation adviser) remembers Joanie being first employed as a librarian at UCLA sometime in the summer of 1960. Douglass believes the two met up in July or August of 1960 (i.e., around the time of Castaneda’s separation from Margaret Runyan)."(source)
Again, the question is, where did Cory Donovan and Sustained Action directly obtain the information of when and where Castaneda and Mary Joan Barker first met? I can tell you where I got mine.
In 1973 my former college roomate took a job with the City of Los Angeles working in some fashion in coordinating and mounting exhibits in the art gallery located on the upper floors of the L.A. City Hall among other things. Around the same time he bought a "fixer-upper" dump of a place in Venice, California. Along the way he discovered there was some sort of short-term effort between the perimeters of his job and the Israel Levin Center in Venice. He also discovered, since it was some distance to city hall in downtown Los Angeles and where he lived in Venice, that if he participated in whatever the project was being coordinated with the Center, he could either come in late a few days a week or not come in at all.
It just so happened that during that same period, although teaching full time at USC, Barbara Myerhoff was doing fieldwork regarding elderly Jews at the same Center supported by a five-year grant from the National Science Foundation given to the USC Andrus Gerontology Center. In pursuit of their separate endeavors my ex-roomate and Myerhoff soon crossed paths and it wasn't long after that their crossing of paths was brought to my attention.
Through their crossing of paths I was able to finagle or put into place what appeared on the surface to be, and was for all practical purposes, an impromtu meeting --- a meeting that inturn, led from casual conversation to a rather substantial discussion between Myerhoff and myself regarding some aspects of her knowledge of Castaneda that I was hoping to clarify for my own edification.
Ten years later, sometime in the fall of 1984 I found myself at the Ojai Foundation in Ojai, California at a talk given by a friend of my Uncle, the noted Huichol Indian shaman Don Jose Matsuwa --- probably age 94 or so at the time. After the talk, and this time genuinely so impromptu, I ran into Barbara Myerhoff, as well as, of all people, Professor Douglass Price-Williams, the two engaging in small talk as much as people of their ilk can engage in small talk. I had by then already experienced the events outlined elsewhere with the shaman man of spells high in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica called an Obeah, of which ended in somewhat startling results. Because of such, and because I was sure both saw me with Matsuwa after his talk, having been allowed into his inner circle to offer my respects after it became known the relationship with my uncle, I felt confident to be in a circle of such an exaulted environment. To cut to the quick, although it was Myerhoff to whom I originally intended to speak, when I learned one of the people in the associated group she was talking with was Price-Williams, it was to him I directed my pointed question and it was Price-Williams who answered directly. He basically related that he knew Castaneda since shortly after he arrived at UCLA as a new transfer student from L.A. City College and most definitely before Barker ever entered the picture. That did not happen until the summer of 1960 when she took a job in the library at UCLA.
In the above main text, speaking of my father and his onetime youthful pursuit as a gold prospector, I write:
"(My) father was fascinated with the Lost Dutchman Mine, primarily because he had spent a great deal of time as a gold prospector in his youth. Sometime prior to or during the Depression my father along with a man with the first name of "King" and another man by the name of Walt Bickel, had gone to the gold fields of the Sierras to pan for gold, eventually setting up a full-fledged claim with sluce boxes and all."
My mother died while I was a very young age. Most of my childhood following her death was spent living with people other than my father. I did, however, starting around age ten years or so spend time with him once in awhile on weekend trips and parts of a couple of summer vacations. Those trips usually circulated around fishing, camping and gold prospecting in his favorite haunts along the eastside of the Sierras and into the desert in and around Death Valley. To facilitate his trips, as long as I could remember he always owned four-wheel drive vehicles. On one of the trips he picked me up in a World War II army ambulance he fixed up like a camper. We were headed north up the 14 from Los Angeles toward the 395 and got as far as Red Rock Canyon when the front U-joint on the rear-drive drive shaft came loose allowing the it to drop to the highway and bending the shaft beyond use. Any other time it would not have been a problem because he could have driven just using the front wheels. However, on this trip, for highway driving, he had removed the front drive shaft. When he went to get it out of the back of the truck he discovered he somehow left it in Los Angeles. He decided to hitchhike back to L.A. and pick up the shaft, but, figuring traveling with a kid might present a hinderance, he left me for a few days at the rather rustic mining camp of a friend of his by the name of Walter Bickel.
Typically he would have stopped in Cantil, a small town just to the east of Red Rock Canyon where the truck broke down, to see a good friend of my stepmother's by the name of Pancho Barnes. However, my dad and stepmother were going into, getting or just got a divorce and he did not want to explain it all to Barnes.
Bickel, who just happened to live in a place called Last Chance Canyon right next to Red Rock Canyon, and my dad went way, way back. They were both born in the same year, 1905, and in the same month less that two weeks apart. They met in the goldfields very early on. My dad made it a habit to stop by and see Bickel on a regular basis during his forays into the desert, but, even though my dad and I did not travel all that much together, and I wasn't with him at the time, it was my second visit to the camp.
In an essay written by the past Curator of the Maturango Museum in Ridgecrest, California, the following is found:
"Last Chance Canyon was not the first experience Walt had with mining, but 'it was the first place I panned enough gold to think there might be more.' He prospected for gold and silver all over the upper Mojave Desert, from Jawbone Canyon to Owens Lake and into Nevada and Arizona. He originally saw the Last Chance Canyon area in 1927 while on the way to Nevada with a friend. It apparently made an impression because, in 1933, when he met a man in Mojave who had a mine in Last Chance Canyon, Walt and a friend had enough interest to go with him to see his mine."(source)
The 1927 friend was my father, not so sure about the 1933 friend. Bickel married in 1928 and my dad in 1931. Both started families shortly thereafter interfering with the close contact they had previously. The essay goes on to say:
"Walt placer-mined his claims, using a dry washer. Because a lot of the gold he collected is what he calls a "fine flour gold", and to make the most of his time and get the most out of his claims, he modified the current model of the miner's dry washer to retrieve up to 97 percent of the fine gold from the dirt."
My dad originally started prospecting using sluce boxes in the northern Sierras but moved to dry washers in the desert like Bickel in later years after being caught in the Washoe Zephyr one to many times. The modified, more efficient, drywasher mentioned above that Bickel used to retrieve 97 percent of the fine gold was actually an inovation originally concocted by my father. Matter of fact, my older brother had one of the modified drywashers my dad built for years. Several years after the man who married my mother's sister committed suicide she tried to raise two kids and remain in her home. After years of struggle she eventually lost everything because of back taxes. A lien was put against her property and what was left behind was put up for auction. Unknown to any of us, over the years, my father had stored some of his things at her place, of which one was one of the drywashers he built. The drywasher ended up in a local antique shop where my brother ran across it and bought it. The first time I saw it I recognized it as being just like the one Bickel used.
After my discharge from the Military it was not unusual for me to visit what my Mentor called his High Mountain Zendo some distance north and into the mountains from Bickel's compound. Two or three times in the mid to late 60s either on the way to or returning from the Zendo, as described in The Letter, I stopped by Bickel's to pay my respects and update him on my dad who was in pretty bad shape, and eventually died within a few years after being caught in a fire while on the job. I was always invited to stay a night or so and on one or two occasions I did. During one of those one or two night stays I was introduced to a man by the name of Alex Apostolides who, at the time just happened to be doing archaeological surveys and field work under the aegis of UCLA. After talking Mayan Ruins for short period of time, in a small talk BS sort of way I dredged up the only other piece of information I thought might be of interest, mentioning I knew a man by the name of Carlos Castaneda who was a student in the department at UCLA at one time and had been, I was told, doing field work in Arizona and New Mexico. Surprisingly enough, Apostolides knew Castaneda. He told me Castaneda was now a graduate student working on his PhD and, although Apostolides was NOT totally familiar with the content of what Castaneda was writing, that he would soon have a book published --- the FIRST I heard of Castaneda being in the process of doing so since hearing about in a roundabout way of an uncompleted nonfiction manuscript Castaneda attempted to write he called "Dial Operator." I told him the last time I saw Castaneda was several years before in a Greyhound bus station in Nogales, Arizona. Of course that bus station encounter, unknown to me at the time and what continued to be so even up to the time I met Apostolides --- and seemingly unimportant to Apostolides as well --- turned out to be Castaneda's infamous Nogales Bus Station Meeting where he claimed to have met the mainstay in all his books, Don Juan Matus.
In the above text I write that being left at Bickel's camp by my father was actually my second visit. The first visit came about because as a very young boy I had, again, as mentioned above, inadvertently stumbled across the suicide of a revered family member. Hours later I was found wandering out in the middle of the desert all alone, dehydrated, mind-numb, and basically out-of-it, by an old, onetime Borax 20 Mule Team mule-skinner. He inturn took me to Bickel's place.
The incredible coincidence to it all, and completely unrelated to me being taken to Bickel's encampment by the onetime mule-skinner, was the discovery by Bickel that his original prospecting partner back in the old days when he first started out was MY father. When I told Bickel my name I don't recall if I gave him both names or not, but in either case, it didn't seem to register one way or the other --- nor in my mind or his was there any reason it should have. But later in conversation, when he asked what I liked to eat and I told him I liked "howdy beans" his jaw fell nearly to the floor. Apparently my dad was known up and down the old mining camps for a concoction he used to cook up called howdy beans. How it was told to me was, while other miners went to work their claims, on a rotating basis, one miner would stay back and cook grub and clean the camp. When it was my dad's turn he invariably made howdy beans because so many miners requested it. The concept of howdy beans was such an inside story that nobody but someone associated with the early mining camps would have known anything about them. When I told him that before my mother died my dad used to make howdy beans whenever we went camping, Bickel put two-and-two together --- I was the son of his old partner.
When all of the above came down, being found wandering out in the middle of the desert totally unescorted and alone by an old desert rat muleskinner and all, I was a very young boy. I'm not really sure what the results would have been like for me being found under similar circumstances in today's world, but the following is how it was related to my grandmother as found at the source so cited:
"When my grandmother came to get me the sheriff said he had personally known the old man and woman for a very long time and that both were fine and good people. The man was a rough and tumble old guy who was known to have been a onetime a muleskinner or swamper for the 20 mule team borax wagons that used to make the trek up and out of Death Valley and across the desert. Now days the sheriff said, the old man spent most of his time in one fashion or the other participating in Native American sweat lodge ceremonies and most likely I did too. The sheriff assured my grandmother there was no need to worry about anything related to my overall well being during the time I was in their company. According to the sheriff the two just didn't experience the passage of time like others seemed to. The period of days or weeks I was with them was really no more than just a matter of them coming into town relative to their needs."(source)
The reason so much of it came about in my favor and without harm as much as it did is because in those days old prospector types like Bickel and the rough and tumble old muleskinner followed or had ingrained in their psych a certain nobility based around a creed called the Cowboy Code of the West. Sure, not all fully abided by such a code, but there were enough who did that a young boy --- or even a girl for that fact --- found all alone wandering in the desert was in perhaps a crude sort of way, as safe as being in his mother's arms.
FOLLOW UP NOTE: Now, while it is true I haven't been excessively over inundated by thousands and thousands of people interested in Apostolides and any relation he might have had with Castaneda one way or the other, for the number who have read and responded to the above they seem to fall into several distinct catagories. First, those who never heard of Apostolides and not interested one way or the other, being tired of pretenders to the Don Juan throne. Second, those who never heard of him and would like to know more about him. Third, those who say even if he did know Castaneda he had no impact one way or the other. And last, those who have read about him and say he was so important they are convinced Castaneda modeled Don Juan around him.
Even though Apostolides himself told me he was NOT totally familiar with the content of what Castaneda was writing, some people, especially those from the last group, have expressed concern over my above comment that implies because he did not find the bus station encounter important at the level I feel he should have --- the bus station encounter being the major KEY to all of Castaneda's writings --- that Apostolides may have not actually been invlolved with Castaneda at the level he claimed or possibly at any level. Some who have expressed concern have refered me to the works of a friend of Apostolides, one Bill Gann. For those who may be so interested I have addressed the issue in Alex Apostolides.