the Wanderling

In April of the year 1968, on the occasion of my birthday, I went in search of the site of my childhood attempt twenty years previously of a manned flight using a flying machine partly inspired by a Leonardo Da Vinci design.

Those twenty years before, as a young boy, after seeing a 1947 Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movie titled Tarzan and the Huntress wherein Tarzan's son Boy builds a glider-type plane capable of flying while carrying him --- and that their chimp Cheetah steals, then hanging on for dear life jumps off some rocks flying quite some distance before eventually crashing into the trees and falling to the ground --- I constructed a similar winged, glider-like contraption my uncle and I thought would easily carry ME in flight over a substained distance as well. Although my uncle never said anything about actually trying out the device, without his sanction I hauled it out of the garage and up to the top of the two story apartment house across the street, and hanging on for dear life, jumped off. On page three of ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT: The Path Unfolds I describe the results of that attempt:

"Initially the flight played out fairly well, picking up wind under the wings and maintaining the same two-story height advantage for some distance. Halfway across busy Arlington Street though, the craft began slowing and losing forward momentum. It began dropping altitude rapidly, eventually crashing into the porch and partway through the front windows of the house across the way. Other than a few bruises and a wrecked machine, nothing was broken, although as it turned out, my dad wasn't nearly as proud of me as intended. I never forgot the thrill of that flight and carried that thrill and Leonardo's dreams into my adulthood."[1]

Please note the mention of "Arlington Street" in the above quote. As a young boy with several years under the auspices of my Stepmother growing up in, or at least operating out of as a base of operations, the so-called Adams District of Los Angeles, of which encompassed Arlington Street where it crossed Adams, there was an exclusive gated area called Berkeley Square and close by, near the corner of Western and Adams, a huge bricked in compound where some guy had his own private domed observatory. When I went back twenty years later seeking out my infamous two-story high Arlington Street launch site, I discovered that the Santa Monica Freeway, which didn't exist when I was a kid, ran eight or more full lanes wide right through the old neighborhood, completely wiping out Berkeley Square and other houses for blocks around.

To find what I was looking for I had to drive all over the place searching out old landmarks. In doing so the most unusual thing happened. As Karma and conditions would have it, on that exact same day as I was circling around in my car trying to find someplace I recognized, I turned on a street called Cimarron. In doing so I accidently came across the official first-day opening of the Rinzai-ji Zen Center, as part of the 61st birthday of Joshu Sasaki Roshi. At the time I was one year away from the events described in Dark Luminosity but heavy into study-practice. Stumbling across a Zen center right in the middle of a now somewhat pretty much dilapidated former shadow of itself crumbling area on the west side of Los Angeles was so unexpected that I had to stop and go in. I had studied under Yasutani Hakuun Roshi a few years before --- without much success I might add --- plus months and months Doing Hard Time In A Zen Monastery high up on the side of some steep Chinese mountain situated somewhere along the southern edge of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, so I had some experience with Zen protocol, and as an outsider amongst mostly regulars or the uninitiated, noticed quite quickly. In the process I was introduced briefly to the Roshi, then continued on my journey. Actually, although he did not seem to remember it nor did I mention it, I had met the Roshi some years before when I went to Gardena, California with my Mentor to a zendo held in all things, a garage, that he, the Roshi, officiated over.

Joshu Sasaki Roshi arrived in Los Angeles from Japan on July 21, 1962. His sponsor took him to a small rented house on Mariposa Street in Gardena, where he took up residence. He immediately began conducting Zen meetings on weeknights and Sunday mornings, initially using the garage as a Zendo. Because of the increase in his popularity, by 1966 the Mariposa site had outgrown its quarters, so the Roshi started holding Zazen in a nearby donated office space.

In January 1968, under the Roshi, what had now become a legal religious organization, bought its first property, the Cimarron Zen Center, formally dedicating it on April 21, 1968, the same day I stumbled across the Zen Center.

A couple of years before, near the end of the year 1966, a few members of a then still under the radar loose knit hippie group operating out of Orange County, California calling themselves The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, whose main purpose of existence was advocating the use of LSD, began attending Zen sessions held at the Roshi's Gardena office space. They asked the Roshi if he would be willing to present a meditation session at their then Modjeska Canyon digs, and much to their surprise the Roshi accepted. It was near Christmas of 1966 and somewhere along the way I heard the Roshi was going to be in Modjeska Canyon, so just for the heck of it I attended that session, the first time I came into any real contact with the Brotherhood.

In DON JUAN MATUS: Real or Imagined, I told of meeting with my uncle in Kingman, Arizona, a small desert community located about halfway between where I lived in California and where my uncle lived near the Sangre de Christo mountains of New Mexico, a meeting of which he arranged. When the meeting ended the following transpired:

"(A)s we were parting he gave me a small package to deliver in person to a man in Laguna Beach, California --- and told me whatever I did, NOT give it to anybody else under any circumstances. When I arrived in Laguna Beach I went to an establishment on Pacific Coast Highway called Mystic Arts World as directed by my uncle. There someone took me to the man who was sequestered in a remote cave hidden in the hills above Laguna Canyon Road. The man, Dr. Timothy Leary. The contents of the box not known."

The Laguna Beach establishment my uncle sent me to, Mystic Arts World, for all outward appearances looked like not much more than an early 60s head shop, with racks of tie-dyed shirts, the smell of burning incense, psychedelic posters, and bongs. It was actually the new base of operations for The Brotherhood of Eternal Love after moving from Modjeska Canyon. By the time my uncle sent me to the Mystic Arts World, because of my interactions with the Modjeska Canyon Zen sessions I was known enough not to be viewed suspiciously, so getting the box my uncle gave me to Timothy Leary, and doing so personally, did not present a problem.

The Brotherhood dealt heavily in the movement and sale of marijuana, psychedelic mushrooms, and LSD --- reportedly with upwards of $200 million in sales in the late 60s. The organization began to fall apart shortly after its leader died of an overdose of synthetic psilocybin in August 1969 and the Mystic Arts World building burning to the ground following a mysterious fire that started just before midnight June 4, 1970, a fire widely viewed as arson. By 1974, following an August of 1972 multi-agency government raid, most of the remnants of the organization were dispersed, scattered, or gone.

In 1971, year or so before the government raid, the all-time 60s era bible, the seminal book Be Here Now by Ram Dass, which as an example Apple Computer mogul Steve Jobs mentioned as being highly influential in his life before Apple, was published. In the book, which became a wildly popular best seller and near bible in the counter-culture, Dass mentioned a deeply respected young white American he met in India called Bhagavan Das, a follower of the venerated Indian saint Neem Karoli Baba, that was fully ingrained into the spiritual culture of India. The two of them traveled around the sub-continent together partaking of a variety of religious and spiritual undertakings as well as indulging in a lot of LSD. It just so happened Bhagavan Das was originally from Laguna Beach and known as Kermit Michael Riggs in those days, and because of his stature given him in the Ram Dass book, had become a growing sort of hero amongst the local LSD crowd associated with the Mystic Arts World and the Brotherhood of Eternal Love. In the milieu of Laguna Beach it wasn't long before Bhagavan Das was brought to my attention and I learned he had returned from India after six or seven years, living quietly as a civilian in the northern California bay area, most notedly, Santa Cruz and sometimes Berkeley.

Before the oncoming summer of 1974, at the request of my mentor who wanted my assist in helping him meet a friend who would soon be visiting from India, I headed north along the California coast slowly wending my way toward Sausalito, all the while crossing paths with a few friends and strangers along the way. One of the people I stopped to see was an old high school buddy who lived in San Jose and worked at IBM. While staying at his place I visited the Winchester Mystery House and, as outlined in what I have written about Steve Jobs I met the future to be computer genius in the garden there.

During our talk that afternoon he told me he was seriously contemplating going to India in an effort to find a guru. I mentioned Bhagavan Das to him saying there was a highly respected holy man just returned from India, now living in the area he should look up, a holy man that could give him all the ins-and-outs of a spiritual quest in India anybody would ever need or want. Jobs remembered Bhagavan Das almost immediately from having read about him in Be Here Now and seemed sort of excited about the prospect. If Jobs ever went to Bhagavan Das I never learned, as neither ever mentioned it as far as I know. However, shortly after our meeting in the garden at the Winchester House, Jobs did go to India.


Joshu Sasaki Roshi, retired from teaching February 2012, it is said, due to illness. However, it saddens my heart to learn of alleged actions by the Center's Roshi and for all who may have been harmed by such actions. See:

One day, and I do not specifically remember when, I was waiting between trains at the Union Station in Los Angeles and decided to dash across the street to Olvera Street for tacquitos. A man that I knew at one time, who it was quite clear was now homeless and had fallen on hard times, stepped up to me and we started talking. I contacted a friend that attended Joshu Sasaki Roshi's old Rinzai-ji Zen Center on Cimarron to see if he could help the man. He did. Apparently the homeless man turned his life around after awhile. I heard from good sources that he attained a state of immortality.(see)

Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.



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"Lavish mansions stood prominently along West Adams Boulevard and nearby Berkeley Square housing the affluent. They were symbols of stateliness and elegance, designed by the best architects of Europe and the US."

Berkeley Square was an exclusive gated neighborhood located in Los Angeles, California, just east of Arlington Street between West 21st and West 24th, bordered on the west by South Gramercy Place. The neighborhood is now gone and covered by the 10 FWY, but from 1920 through to the early mid-1950s was full of dozens of large and expensive mansions.

Multi-millionaire Erle P. Halliburton, who founded what eventually became Halliburton Oil, maintained a residence there with his immediate family. His youngest son, David J. Halliburton, who I met and had an abstract impact on my life, was born there.

SEE: BERKELEY SQUARE: Historic Los Angeles

Footnote [1]

Why all the fuss about the ability to fly, flying machines, flying, giant flying creatures, giant birds, giant feathers, et al, and all of it relating back to the Wanderling somehow?

One day as a young boy I wandered off into the desert unescorted. When my Uncle found me missing he went searching for me. Years later he told me the distance I traveled that day, from the point I started to the location he found me, was way to far for me to have covered given the time, especially considering the level of my own abilities, the terrain, heat of the day, etc. He told me he had tracked me some distance quite clearly, then my tracks suddenly just ended as though I had disappeared into thin air. Knowing I didn't have a large supply of water or any at all he continued to look in areas he thought I might seek out and just happened across me --- many, many miles from where he had last seen my tracks. How I got there he couldn't say with any amount of certainty. However, he told me, and he kept it a secret from his wife even to the point of burning my shirt, that my shirt below both shoulders as well as part way down the back and along my sleeves were punctured in spots and appeared to have what he called grip marks on them. So too, my skin had red abrasions almost like minor scratches as though my arms had been clutched by something. He told me he was sure I had been carried off and if he hadn't happened across me I may had been carried off even further, maybe even never to be found.

In that my uncle was not able to get me to tell him verbally --- OR I was unable or unwilling to put into words my experience of what happened that day --- my uncle suggested I sit down and draw whatever pictures came to mind that related to the event. All of those drawings are long gone as are any finite memories of same, except for one. I remember it clearly as if only yesterday because of the striking comparison my uncle made between one of my drawings and an ink and watercolor drawing by Leonardo Da Vinci. They were nearly identical, desert landscape and all. The major exception was that where Leonardo's drawing depicted a lake with a shape similar to a bird, my drawing, although having a similar shape, was instead, a SHADOW of a giant bird.

Leonardo Da Vinci: Bird's-Eye View of a Landscape. 1502.
Pen, ink and watercolor on paper. Windsor Castle, Windsor, UK

Basically, my uncle stated many times that he felt the reason for my destiny and fascination regarding all aspects of giant flying creatures went back to an incident that involved the fly over of a giant airborne object that I witnessed as a young boy. The object, of an unknown nature and an unknown origin, was seen by literally thousands of people along the coast of California barely three months into World War II. Eventually to be called the Battle of Los Angeles or as I call it the UFO Over L.A., the incident is mostly forgotten now except by maybe myself and a major chronicler of the event C. Scott Littleton whose critiques of my eyewitness accounts of the event are explored in Littleton Vs. The Wanderling. Anyway, as the story goes, during the early morning hours of February 25, 1942 the whole city and surrounding communities were in an uproar as thousands of rounds of anti-aircraft shells were expended in an attempt to pull down whatever it was in the sky that night. The slow moving object, said to be as big or bigger than a Zeppelin, was caught in the glare of the searchlights from Santa Monica to Long Beach and seemed impervious to the the constant barrarge of shells. It eventually disappeared out over the Pacific after cruising along the coast and cutting inland for a while. The huge object was never clearly explained and was basically hushed up without response from the authorities.


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As to the whole Leonardo Da Vinci flying thing, in the end it was basically a huge metaphor for things to come, of which I get into somewhat more throughly in Codex Atlanticus. As it was, my mentor, either before or after his stay at the ashrama of Sri Ramana Maharshi, and I believe it was before --- even though it is not mentioned by William Somerset Maugham in his book --- traveled to Bijapur to meet with another Indian holy man, Siddharameshwar Maharaj. The Maharaj taught that the only way one can reach Final Reality, that is, Enlightenment, is through what he called Vihangam Marg, the bird's way. For me, at the time, of course, I knew nothing of such things. I only know who the holy man is now because I was able to put together bits and pieces of information such as time and place with such clues as "the bird's way." The holy man had related to my Mentor that only by hearing and practising from the teachings of the Master and thinking over it, just like the bird flies from one tree to another, can one attain Awakening very fast. This is the shortest way to achieve the Final Reality. In that initially I had made little or no progress toward Enlightenment my mentor told me of Siddharameshwer's method.

Howard Hughes, Da Vinci, and Flying Machines