"A few days later, curious about what the man meant about real cars, I went to his shop. I had never seen anything like it. The place was like Batman's secret cave, full of all kinds of super-sleek racing type sports cars, many torn down and in various states of repair and others looking untouched, painted in shiny blood red with blue stripes down the center bordered on each side with white. The man in the restaurant that invited me to his shop turned out to be a man named Joe Landaker, a master mechanic that worked for a millionaire race car owner named Tony Parravano. The cars were Ferraris and Maseratis --- cars I had never heard of or seen before."
Paragraph six, below
For me, time has always held a special fascination. I don't mean everyday tick-tock clock time, I mean like what time really is --- from it's make-up or non make-up to time travel to time dialation to the way time seems to appear to one observer as compared to another observer as found in the theories of relativity of Albert Einstein. From H.G. Wells' Time Machine wherein a machine of sorts was used to travel into the past or future to movies and stories such as Sliding Doors that explores how a totally different outcome of events can happen if even a slight change in the normal flow of things transpires --- I encompass it all. The question is what does any interest in time on my part have to do with Cobras, Scarabs, and Maseratis?
The answer starts in how the seed-form of an interest in time was implanted in the first place --- only to grow and blossom well beyond the normal into almost an addiction. My suspicion is that it stems from a very lean period of my life when, as a young boy, long before I ever heard of a Maserati or the dreams of Cobras or Scarabs were in the minds of those who created them, I was taken quite unwillingly by a couple to India and the ashram of the venerated Indian holy man the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.
While sitting before the great Indian sage in the old hall, what felt like the start of a small tremble in my body like the shiver of a chill, only inside-out and warm, instantly spread all throughout me into a major explosion of light, and in the process of that explosion I underwent some sort of total mind-body altering transformation. Afterwards, those of whose charge I was under and other adults in my life around me --- and like me at the time not versed in Indian spirituality --- did not make a connection. They thought I had lost my mind in some fashion and saw what they described as a skewed perspective on things. Because of mitigating circumstances, as described in The Last American Darshan, the initial experience sank below my surface mind. However, in that brief window I was Awake I had grasped a very different view of the world and the falsehood of the standard view of time that everything in the every day world seems immersed in. Although that experience became deeply covered over, in my early years there still remained a lingering taste of that grasp just beyond my reach, enough so to continually strive to find my way back. To me, the unknowingly young lad that I was, breaking the mystery of time seemed the answer.
Sometime during the summer between a rather uneventful and mostly unsuccessful sophmore and junior year attending my eventually to become alma mater, Redondo Union High School, the person I call my Merchant Marine Friend, who I had been working for part time doing odd jobs and errands for since I started the ninth grade, died. With his death and the end of my steady flow of semi-substantial pocket money I started looking around for another source of income. I took a job in a small, ten-stool and counter mom and pop restaurant called Fred and Liz's not far from my home and in the process substantially increased the amount of money I earned. With that increase I was able to buy my first car, a Ford Woodie Wagon. Fred had been a cook in the Navy during World War II. Somewhere along the way he met and married a woman from India that he and everybody called Liz. Fred had a regular slew of customers that showed up day after day for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Invariably people who owned businesses, stores, or shops up and down the street from his cafe would show up at one time or the other. Not far up the street from Fred and Liz's on Torrance Boulevard was a business called H and H Body Shop that had a reputation for building outstanding custom and hot rod cars. People from all over would come to the shop to have work done or cars created. One day Barry and Jarvis, the owners of the body shop, showed up outside the restaurant in a customer's immaculate bright yellow full-fendered '32 Ford two-door sedan they were building, channeled with a chopped top and a lots of undercarriage chrome.
I had been working in the back of the restaurant when I noticed everybody but one lone man had gone outside to look at the car. He had just finished his meal and getting up while placing money on the counter to leave when I walked in. Turning toward me as he was heading out the door he asked, "You're the kid fixin' up the woodie wagon, right?" When I nodded in agreement he said, "Lookin' good." As he went out the door, pointing to the crowd around the duce he said, "If you ever want to see REAL cars come by my shop sometime, it's just up the street on the right in the back before the city line."
A few days later, curious about what the man meant about real cars, I went to his shop. I had never seen anything like it. The place was like Batman's secret cave, full of all kinds of super-sleek racing type sports cars, many torn down and in various states of repair and others looking untouched, painted in shiny blood red with blue stripes down the center bordered on each side with white. The man in the restaurant that invited me to his shop turned out to be a man named Joe Landaker, a master mechanic that worked for a millionaire race car owner named Tony Parravano. The cars were Ferraris and Maseratis --- cars I had never heard of or seen before.
Over the next couple of years I dropped by regularly and became enough of a fixture I could pretty much come and go as I pleased. One day Landaker asked if I could leave the woodie over the weekend, he had a surprise for me. When I came by the shop to pick up the wagon on Monday after school he had taken it upon himself to install a dual intake manifold topped with two brand new Stromberg 97s. Other than the carburetors he never did any real mechanic work on the woodie, although, because he liked my dedication to its restoration, he was instrumental in a lot mechanical things being done to it. He got his hands on a 25 tooth floor shift Zephyr transmission that me and my buddy installed. When the transmission was out he arranged to have the flywheel chopped and balanced along with a magnesium Auburn racing clutch and some sort of heavyduty throwout bearing. Then one day I went by the shop and it was locked up tight. I slipped through a side door where I knew the key was hidden and inside, much to my amazement, except for a few pieces of old junk and a couple of worn tires, the place was empty.
Not long afterwards I was driving down PCH in my woodie near Pier Avenue in Hermosa Beach when a pick-up truck towing a trailer carrying a bunch of acetylene bottles and tires mounted on scruffy looking wire wheels pulled along side of me. The driver yelled, "How's the carburetors workin' kid?" As I looked over I could see it was Landaker. Not knowing what to say having not seen him in such a long time I jokingly told him they needed to be tweeked. He answered by signaling me to follow him. Which I did.
He said he had started working for a new race car owner, John Edgar. He then filled me on the fact that his previous boss, Parravano, apparently got mixed up in some heavy duty tax problems with the IRS and inturn they seized his shop and what few cars they could get their hands on --- Parravano wisking a dozen or so Ferraris and Maseratis out of the country, with most of them ending up in Mexico where they mangaged to remain hidden for years --- although more recently I have heard all of them have been accounted for. In the meantime Parravano disappeared, and unlike his cars, remaining so right up to this day (although if still alive he would be well into his 90s).
Edgar's race cars were typically hauled around in a 10-wheel truck and closed trailer transporter. Landaker, as chief mechanic and responsible for the cars, was invariably the person that drove the transporter to and from the races --- and was known to drive it at an extremely high rate of speed, especially cross county. Edgar's main race car driver throughout most of the Golden Years of the sport was Carroll Shelby, later of Cobra fame among other things. Shelby used to tell a story about Landaker and a onetime race driver come film director come highly successful international boatsman named Bruce Kessler that went like the following:
"I remember how Joe would drive John Edgar’s big gasoline GMC tractor and trailer full of race cars all the way from Los Angeles to the Atlantic coast, 3000 miles, living on cheese snacks and soda pop and never once stopping to sleep.
"Joe could drive that transporter coast to coast in two days, give or take a couple of hours. Once in the late ’50s, when Bruce Kessler decided to ride along with Joe from Los Angeles to Miami for the Nassau races, Kessler went as far as Dallas with Joe before he got out and caught an airplane for the rest of the way. It wasn’t because flying was faster. It was that Joe was driving that rig over 100mph and it worried Kessler that they’d both die in some horrible highway crash. But Joe never crashed. It was his way with life. He was his own 'King of the Road.'"
I am not sure which 'late 50s Nassau races' Shelby was refering to, but I know it couldn't have been the 1958 races, so it must have been in 1957 or before because early in the year of 1959 Kessler crashed during the Examiner Grand Prix at Pomona ending up in a coma for four days. After that he decided to quit racing which would have left, for him, any later Nassau races out of the picture --- unless he went just for the heck of it.
That still leaves the 1958 races open. However, the major reason I can be so sure it wasn't the 1958 races that Kessler rode in the transporter to Nassau is because in 1958 I rode shotgun in the cab with Landaker to Miami myself, continuing across the open waters to Nassau on a single stack tub of a ship called the S.S. Florida. I remember the year specifically because earlier that same year Edgar Enterprises had received two brand new special built factory-prototype aluminum block 550 horsepower Pontiac racing engines of 6.3 liter displacement still in crates, courtesy of General Motors. Edgar's 450-S 4.5 liter Maserati had thrown a couple of rods through the side of the block during practice for a race in June at Riverside and Landaker, deciding it was beyond his repair, sent the engine back to the factory for a complete overhaul. In the meantime Landaker installed one of the 550 horsepower Pontiac engines in the Maser and the second engine --- of which very few knew, me being one of the few ---he installed in the GMC truck-tractor that made up the transporter. That year Lance Reventlow Scarabs won both Friday's Governor's Cup race and on Sunday, the main event, the Nassau Tourist Trophy. The Pontiac Maserati, the ONLY year it was at Nassau, was a DNF. Shelby too, was a did not finish. On the 15th lap Shelby, who had been leading the race driving Temple Buell's 450-S punched out to 5.7 liters by the time it was loaned to Edgar for Nassau, came into the pits with a shredded tire. After a quick 28-second wheel change the engine wouldn't restart. By the time Shelby had limped into the pits, the wheel was changed, and Landaker located why the engine wouldn't turn over, then repaired it (a broken battery terminal) Reventlow was more than two laps ahead. They decided there was no use in putting the car or Shelby at risk with such an insurmountable lead so they packed it in. Matter of fact, throughout the whole Nassau racing week only one of the Edgar cars finished that year.(see)
Toward the end of the year before, November 2nd and 3rd, 1957, when Edgar's 450-S was still pure Maserati, that is, powered by the original 4.5, Landaker took it down to Palm Springs for the races held that weekend. A few nights before, like I often did in those days, I dropped by his house where his garage opened to the street. The garage, as usual, was crammed full of all kinds of Ferrari and Maserati stuff, only this time including the 4.5. He gave me a couple of pit passes and told me to show up if I could. I was there both days dawn to dusk. Early in the morning on both days Landaker was out on the track tuning and driving the Maser. On Saturday Landaker was turning lap times equal to Shelby's fastest, all the time looking over his shoulder like a sprint car driver and throwing the rear end out just the same. As he said, even though he could cut lap times as fast as Shelby, the car would never last the way he drove. On Sunday morning Landaker told me to get in we were going for a ride. The day before he had the transaxle driveshaft cover off and the thought of the cantaloupe size U-joints spinning around inches from my elbow just wasn't something I really wanted to do. Looking into the cockpit I saw he had reinstalled the cover so I dutifully got in. Now, I am not sure how many of you have ever ridden in the passenger seat in an out-and-out race car like a 450-S, I have to tell you what they call a seat is magrinal at best --- just barely meeting FIA regulations for something resembling a "seat." That afternoon during the race Shelby was being timed consistantly along the back straight at speeds over 163 mile per hour. I know Landaker, with me in the car and hardly anything you would call windshield, was going just as fast. Shelby won the race finishing well ahead of the pack. The next month, in the 252 mile Nassau Trophy race on December 9, 1957, Shelby, driving the same 4.5, even after blowing the clutch leaving the pits and being stuck in fifth gear the rest of the race, through pure driving skills and raw Maserati horsepower distributed to the rear wheels by Landaker's expertise, finished second behind British driver Stirling Moss.
The next year's Nassau race in December of 1958, the Maserati had the 550 horsepower Pontiac engine as did the GMC tractor for the transporter. It was after the Pontiac engine was installed in the GMC that the legend of Landaker's high speeds in the transporter really began to grow. He told me the fully loaded truck and trailer had been timed at over 110 miles an hour at Bonneville. As far as I know the engine was still powering the transporter when he hauled the cars to the 1959 Nassau race --- the race I think Shelby was refering to when Kessler was in the cab. The rest of what Shelby says about Kessler's trip, that Landaker lived on cheese snacks and soda pop and never once stopping to sleep, rings true for my trip. Except for one thing, and a part of the story nobody would know unless they were there, and I was. When we reached Florida the Pontiac engine swallowed a valve or blew a headgasket or some such thing before we reached the docks. Big time NASCAR race mechanic Smokey Yunick joined Landaker reparing the truck right along the freeway. State troopers came along to tell 'em to get the rig the hell off the freeway. When they saw it was Yunick, they set out flares and parked a cruiser behind truck until it was repaired and Landaker took off. Actually, what they finally ended up doing was taking the head off the Pontiac engine in the Maser and putting it on the Pontiac engine in the transporter with Yunick taking the broken head back to his shop. By the time the transporter reached Nassau and all the cars and equipment had been unloaded and set up someone had shown up with the head fully repaired. Although I had heard of Yunick I didn't know much about him, but after Landaker told me there were strong rumors to the effect that he had flown for the Flying Tigers I liked him even better, especially since my favorite airplane was the P-40 Warhawk, the plane the Tigers flew.
Now the question anybody would ask is what does any of that have to do with time? During the period all this race car stuff was surfacing for me and I was trying to resolve the time issue both on the conventional level and the spiritual level through a newly acquired person in my life I called my Mentor, on the international scene a man named Juan Manuel Fangio was quietly going about winning world driving championships, eventually before his retirement, winning five.
In February 1958, ten months before my ride to the 1958 Bahamas Speed Week in Nassau, the Cuban Grand Prix was held in Havana. Despite all the hoopala being called a Grand Prix, the Cuban race was for sports cars, not the open wheel formula one cars used in the driver's championship. So said, the Edgar contingent showed up with two race ready cars, the 4.9 Ferrari for Maston Gregory and the 450-S for Shelby. They also had a third car under their auspices, that being race car owner Tempel Buell's 450-S for Fangio, with Landaker responsible for all three. The whole Cuban thing ended being nothing but a major fiasco. The day before the race, after a full day of practice, Fangio went back to his hotel and was immediately confronted by three armed men who took him out of the hotel, put him in a car and drove off. The men were Castro guerilla fighters trying to embarrass the head of the Cuban government, Batista and his regime. The race went off the next day without Fangio, starting two hours late. Six laps into the 500 mile race a car went out of control and slammed into the crowd killing six or seven people and injuring upwards of thirty. The drivers voted to stop the race with Gregory awarded second place to Stirling Moss in first with Shelby third. Fangio was returned unharmed.
In the meantime, throughout it all during the days leading up to the race Landaker and Fangio became close, if not friends. Back in the early days when Fangio first started racing cars he was his own mechanic and because he knew the rigors of keeping and maintaining a car at its maximum personally he always held top mechanics such as Landaker in high regard. Fangio always insisted on having his own mechanic, but since the 450-S he was driving was owned by Temple Buell under Edgar care, and knowing Landaker's reputation, he reneged for Cuba. Landaker, a modest man about his talents as a mechanic, nevertheless carried Fangio's opinion proudly --- and rightly so.
I had heard that Fangio had an uncanny ability and it was that uncanny ability that made him the greatest race car driver of his era. It has been said when Fangio got into a race car a remarkable transformation occurred to his preception of the world, a transformation that gave him an edge over other drivers. While he was in the cockpit he and the car would be moving at the same everyday pace as anybody would, with one exception. That exception was that the outside world, the world beyond his car relative to himself slowed down. Everything around him moved in slow motion, at half speed as it were. That gave him more time to make decisions and act on any move. If a spectator ran out on the track in front of him the spectator would be moving in slow motion giving Fangio time to go around him or find an alternate response. If a car spun out, the same thing. He could go around corners faster than anybody because he had all kinds of time to place the car in the right spot and keep his tires right on the very edge of he asphalt without falling off into the shoulder and losing adhesion or traction because everything around him was going so slow. When I talked to Landaker about Fangio he said he had heard the same stories, but he said, it wasn't unusual for race drivers to experience similar abilities just not at the level or refinement of Fangio. Fangio could control it and if his concentration wasn't shattered or broken he had all the time in the world.
One day in conversation with Landaker, because of Fangio's ability to have all the time in the world, I mentioned I would love to talk to him. Landaker, agreeing with me as to Fangio's ability, saying it was well beyond any other race car driver he had ever seen, told me even though to his knowledge Fangio didn't speak any amount of english if I could get to Nassau, which was coming up in a few weeks, and if Fangio was there, he would introduce the two of us. I told him because of money, mostly the lack of it, it wasn't all that feasible I could make it. Landaker, looking up from what he was working on and pointing with a wrench in his hand out toward the transporter said, "Then ride with me."
In 1958 the Speed Weeks butted right up against Thanksgiving weekend, so I requested a one week leave from work after the four day Thanksgiving holiday (or just took it), a request that eventually ran into two. Top teams and drivers had free roundtrip transportation for their cars and equipment to be shipped to Nassau from Miami, one arriving on Saturday, November 29th, the other on Tuesday, December 2nd. Landaker had made arrangements for the first departure ensuring room for the transporter. However, since he drove at a 100 miles per hour most of the time he figured he could leave the west coast and be in Miami in plenty of time after enjoying a family Thanksgiving on Thursday. All well and good from Landaker's perspective perhaps, except that not only would we never have made it on time, the engine swallowed a valve before we got to Miami. That put us on the second boat to Nassau, which, although it didn't happen, looked like the transporter might have to stay behind. The two day later arrival, although it may have lessened wear and tear on the vehicles, ate into testing and tune-up time as well as course familiarization by the drivers --- the course having been revamped from the year before and running in the opposite direction.
In the end the Speed Weeks may have been an OK deal for the Reventlow Scarab Team, having two wins under their belt, but such was not the case for the Edgar/Landaker team. Except for one minor all Ferrari race they ended up with nothing but DNFs, with the Pontiac powered Maser, curiously enough, blowing a head gasket. When Landaker got the head back from Yunick, to save time he didn't switch it with the original one on the transporter, but simply installed in on the Maser --- so, goodbye head gasket. So too, the race was marred by the lack of Stirling Moss who had won the main events of the last two previous Nassau Speed Weeks, 1956 and 1957. Although he maintained a home in Nassau he demanded $2000.00 in appearance money, which the powers that be that ran the races declined to do. Moss not being there put a monkey wrench in Landaker's plans for me to meet Fangio. Moss was like a son to Fangio and it was expected that Fangio, even though he had actually retired from racing midway through that same year, was expected to show up and give support to Moss just for the heck of it. If either were at the race somewhere or at some time they must have been traveling incognito as nobody I knew or Landaker knew ran into or had any contact with either them, especially so Fangio. As it was, like the Edgar/Landaker team, for me Fangio was a DNF. I never did meet Fangio or ever talk with him.
MASTER FERRARI & MASERATI MECHANIC JOE LANDAKER
TALKING STRATEGY WITH NO. 1 DRIVER CARROLL SHELBY
Unfortunately I only saw Landaker a couple of times after Nassau. I went to the SCCA road races at McCarran Field in Las Vegas with him sometime in the early sixties, most likely 1961 because in 1960 I spent the whole summer traveling all over Mexico with a buddy and in 1962 I was drafted. After that so much changed in my life it wasn't until maybe 1973 or 1974 before I saw him again, and then only by accident. My dad died in 1972 and it was through an outcome of his death Landaker and I crossed paths --- for the last time.
My dad had been married several times and with his third wife they had a daughter, biologically making her my half sister. My father and I were not really close and since his third wife hated me it made for a lot of estranged distance between all of us. Even so, the daughter and I, who was at least 14 years younger than me, as she reached into her teen years, became good friends.
For whatever reason, as a kid, she really liked Volkswagens, so, for her 16th birthday my dad, who doted over her on her every move, want, or conceived need, bought her a vintage split rear window VW bug. However, before her ever seeing it he had it completely restored inside and out, having it painted with seven coats of hand-rubbed black lacquer and installing chrome plated Porsche rims mounted with Pirelli tires. He also had famed Porsche race team owner and mechanic Vasek Polak install a Porsche 1500 Super engine with a roller bearing crank, upgraded brake system, dual Weber carburetors, and a street legal Spyder exhaust system.
Then, about a year and a half later, in December 1969 during the Christmas vacation six months before the June she was to graduate from high school, she was riding in a car (not the Volkswagen) with three other teenagers at a high rate of speed when the car went up under a slow moving trash truck completely sheering the roof of the car off and killing all four of the teenagers outright including my half sister. My dad, totally distraught, got rid of all her stuff and put the Volkswagen into storage where it was soon forgotten.
The next year my dad, who had been on a total downhill trajectory since his daughter was killed was caught in a fire on the job and two years later, simply losing the will to live, died. In the normal process of things it came out that the forgotten Volkswagen was still around and wasn't left to anybody. His daughter always said if anything ever happened to her she would make sure the car came to me. Her half brother on her mother's side --- from a previous marriage --- substantiated my story saying he had heard her say the same thing many times. On that, I took the car out of storage and got it running. After awhile, because the car was so much fun to drive, I began using it as my regular mode of transportation, even using it on a trip as far north as Sausalito.
One night late I was headed south on the I-10 near Cabazon north of Palm Springs cruising at about 70 mph when a near twin to my car, a beautiful black Okrasa Equipped Beetle, possibly supercharged, pulled up beside me, the driver acting as though he wanted me to go faster. Soon the Okrasa Beetle topped out about 90. When he was done I just pushed down on the pedal and pulled away. Behind me I could see he swung off on Highway 111 toward the Springs. I continued south on the I-10 eventually taching off at 120 mph on the long downhill stretch between the 111 and Indio when the interior of the car suddenly began filling up with smoke. I pulled over and, although nothing caught on fire, smoke was coming out of everywhere. A driver of a big rig stopped and took me into Indio where I arranged to have the VW put on a flatbed and taken to Vasek Polak's. It was only a broken oil line, which in turn had spewed oil all over the hot engine causing all the smoke. Since the engine had all kinds of chrome, most of the repairs was steam cleaning and polishing. Shortly thereafter my dad's third wife had some kind of a restraining order or court order issued barring me from coming anywhere near the VW and after that I lost track of it.
Anyway, while I was at Vasek Polak's I bumped into Landaker who, unknown to me at the time, was working for Polak. Waxing philosophically over lunch he told me that his glory days were behind him, and I have to admit, to me he looked like a former shell of himself. His job at Polak's was not so much as a mechanic but as a truck driver and goodwill ambassador delivering needed race car parts to Polak's International Motorsport Association (IMSA) customers. He told me Shelby had retired from driving the year before we last saw each other, then of course went on to the big time with the Cobras. All of that ended too, with Shelby's last team victory in May 1969 with a Shelby Trans Am Mustang winning at Lime Rock. Landaker said some of the early stuff he was in on but eventually that faded away. Then he went on to say with all the race car owners like John Edgar, Frank Arciero, Joe Lubin and Johnny von Neumann no longer active, along with the big bore machines not meeting FIA standards the only major sports car racing team left was Polak's. Landaker joked, with an element of truth to it, because he was to ham-handed to have the finesse demanded of the Porsche engines, he was put out to pasture. He said Shelby himself was pretty much out of the game too, basically spending most of his time in South Africa while Reventlow, as a passenger in a small plane, had pancaked into some mountain in Colorado a few years before. In the end, much to his credit, Polak found a need for Landaker talents anyway. Since he knew every sports racing track in the country and almost anybody who was anybody in racing, Polak hired him to ensure all the car owners and drivers under the IMSA banner received nothing but the best, quickest service whenever and whenever needed.
Fangio died July 17, 1995 at age 84 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Landaker retired shortly after I saw him at Polak's. In 1994 he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died the following year on January 9, 1995, like Fangio, at age 84. Landaker, a former U.S. Navy Motor Machinist's Mate, was buried at the Veterans’ National Cemetery in Riverside, California, not far from the old Riverside Raceway, the scene of both many of his victories and losses, and of which had been developed and financed by his old boss John Edgar.
WORLD WAR II COMES TO REDONDO
THE WANDERLING AND HIS UNCLE
Their Life and Times Together
RIDING THE CAB FORWARDS
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.
ON THE RAZOR'S
As to the subject of donations, for those of you who may be interested in doing so as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.
The sentence this footnote is referenced to carries with it an almost throw away mention of a person I simply call my buddy then quickly goes on to tell of his helping me install the Zephyr transmission Landaker gave me and that's it. True, the whole of the page is written for other reasons than my buddy, but the quick passage doesn't pay homage to the much bigger part he played in the overall scheme of things relative to the woodie, my life, AND me. He and I went to the same high school, and, although we didn't bum around together, he did live just up the street from me and on occasion he would stop by while I was working on the wagon to see how things were going. Pretty soon he was tinkering with some minor mechanical stuff, then as time passed, more and more. In ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT: The Path Unfolds, linked at the source at the end of the quote, the following is found:
"However, we had established a strong tie and friendship because he was like an artist when it came to working on and having knowledge of old Fords, of which my early 1940s woodie station wagon was one. While I restored the wood, except for twin carburetors that had been installed by famed race car mechanic Joe Landaker, my buddy was the only one that worked on it, spending tons of hours on the mechanical end of things just for the heck of it, and because of his endeavors, it sang when it ran because everything mechanical was so in sync."(source)
Several years out high school my buddy moved to northern California after getting a job with IBM or some such place. One day on a trip through the same general area where he lived, not having seen him in a very long time, I decided to look him up. In turn he invited me to stay a couple of days. Other than going to the same high school and working on the woodie wagon in our past, we really didn't have much in common, plus we hadn't seen each other in years, so staying at his place for two or three days we did things more to his liking than what I would have otherwise normally done. He, having to work on one of the days I was there, suggested I visit the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum and/or the Winchester House, both of which were located not far from his apartment. Thinking coming from him neither was probably the best of ideas I selected the Winchester House first because I remembered as a young kid playing cowboys I had a certain fondness for the classic western saddle gun, the Winchester lever-action 30-30. Arriving early I actually ended up staying most of the of the day and never did make it to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum.
After a formal tour and a long time going over all the weapons in the Firearms Museum I found myself off on my own wandering around both inside and outside the rather bizarre complex, eventually ending up leisurely strolling around the Victorian Gardens that surround it. While in the garden I was approached by three or four monks in full Buddhist regalia. We spoke for a few minutes and they went on their way. A somewhat intense, disheveled, and bearded young man in his late teens or early twenties who seemed to have been following and observing the monks from a distance came up to speak with me when they departed. He asked if they always acted that way as they seemed to exhibit some sort of reverence toward me. After several more questions I told him I had studied Zen under Yasutani Hakuun Roshi and had as well been to India and the ashrama of Sri Ramana Maharshi. As the afternoon passed in conversation he continually wanted to know all about the the difference between the Indian side of things and that of Zen. After awhile, he stood up from the bench we were sitting on and said as soon as he had the money he was going to go to India. Later I learned the besheveled young man did just that, actually traveling in India for seven months. His name Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Computers. See Footnote .
I crossed paths with Kessler on-and-off on a number of occasions in the early years, usually in or around the docks of Marina Del Rey or sometimes at a road racing event or Reventlow's Scarab Factory a few blocks from the marina. Although now days there is no specific reason for him to remember any of the occasions because all of them were mostly no more than small, unconnected increments of time many years ago. However, as you can see if you go through events as I have outlined them, although the weaved pattern becomes lost in a much larger fabric of place and time the minor threads still hold the whole together.
Me being a regular at the marina came about because of the woodie wagon I spent so much time re-doing. The wood on the wagon was in such an immaculate state of restoration, having arrived at such a state only after hours and hours my own personal painstaking endeavors, that it attracted attention whenever I drove it. One of the persons it attracted was the skipper of a yacht come marlin boat moored in the Marina Del Rey harbor owned by the grown son and heir of a major multi-millionaire oil man.(see) The skipper was so taken by my talents working the wood he hired me to do the brightwork on the boat he skippered. Working on the brightwork put me in the marina on an almost daily basis --- at least for a good part of the year, the other part of the year we were in Cabo San Lucas. I don't know how it is now, but in those days there was sort of an esprit de corps on the docks. Me as a common worker quy was just as accepted as the next person. Ronnie Burns, the son of comedian George Burns, had a boat in a slip on the same dock that the boat I worked on was moored, and Kessler was a frequent visitor (actually, it could have been vice versa with the boat belonging to Kessler and Burns the visitor). Kessler would not have been in a position to know I knew Landaker or Reventlow, but even so whenever we came in contact pleasantries were passed, especially after a little girl who was walking with her mother and two sisters stepped off the dock and without thinking I jumped into the water to pull her out. Now, if Kessler was an actual witness to the event is not known, however the marina is a small community and it wouldn't have been long for the word to get around that it was the guy that works on the brightwork on so-and-so boat. No sooner had I pulled the little girl from the water than a small crowd of locals gathered and the following happened:
"Amongst the crowd was a woman that recognized me, a former Rose Marie Reid swim suit model that I knew as Sullivan, but since married to the son of a renowned ocean explorer. They had a boat in the harbor and since we had not seen each other in years, after everybody was sure the girl was OK, she asked me to join her for drinks on her yacht, get into some dry clothes and get caught up. As I was leaving later in afternoon Sullivan asked if I would be willing to go to a party she was throwing in a couple of weeks. As I slowly strolled away down the dock I halfheartedly turned back and nodded in agreement that I would attend." (source)
In general conversation Sullivan told me that if Kessler's dad Jack wasn't the outright owner of Rose Marie Reid, the company she used to model for, he was certainly a major mover in the firm. I was actually set aback at the time because, although I knew he (Bruce) traveled in fairly high circles he never acted like he was so connected --- I mean, during the period of time we are talking about here the Rose Marie Reid swimsuit company was turning out something like 10,000 suits a day and bringing in somewhere around $15 million in sales a year, not exactly chump change --- and Kessler (again, Bruce) was always just a regular guy. Little did I know at the time that anything related to what was going on would eventually involve the woman on the dock with the prophecy of an ancient tribal elder and Navajo Code Talkers.
As for Reventlow I had known him since we were both kids. He was probably around 14 years old and I was around 12 when we first met. My dad and Stepmother had gone off to Mexico and on to South America for a couple of years and parsed out my brothers and I to others to look after us. My older brother went to live with my grandmother and my younger brother went to live with a couple of which the woman of the couple was somehow known to my stepmother. My Uncle, who had basically had charge of me since I was eight years old was going back to Santa Fe and after some negotiating was able to convince the couple that took my younger brother to take me as well. It didn't work out with me running away on more than one occasion.(see) My uncle contacted my stepmother who told my uncle to put me into some kind of boys home until she got back, but not a disciplinary one like they had put my older brother in at one time, but an educational one. In the process my uncle checked out the Southern Arizona School for Boys in Tucson and took me with him. The school for boys idea didn't take hold and I ended up back with the couple after promising my uncle I would behave until other solutions were found or my stepmother returned.
The thing is, during my visit to the school, while my uncle was in discussion and being shown around I saw a boy sitting by himself at a table and, although later he claimed to be no kind of an artist, he was making the most fabulous pencil drawing of an open wheeled race car by a kid I had ever seen. I was always drawing pictures, mostly of planes and rocket ships, but never of race cars. I sat down next to the boy and began drawing the only race car I knew anything about, the Boyle Special that had won the 1939 and 1940 Indianapolis 500. The next thing I knew the two of us were talking on and on with the boy telling me of seeing race cars in Europe, not like the ones in the U.S. that drove around only in circles, but that raced on real roads. The boy turned out to be Lance Reventlow.
THE LADY ON THE DOCK, THE PBY, AND HIGH BARBAREE
In March of 2003 the noted theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking had a speaking engagement at the University of California, Davis. I attended his speech as the guest of a well respected science-related invitee as well as the formal invitation only after speech event. Doing so presented me with the opportunity to wend my way through the greeting line in a more official-like status as she slowly progressed forward to express her regards and admiration to the scientist. Reaching the spot Hawking was positioned, the following, highly related to having all the time in the world transpired, as quoted from the source so cited:
"I was just to the right of her at that given moment and a hand-width to the right of me was another distinguished professor or scientist. When the person I was with was given a nod of acknowledgment she courteously stepped back as did I. Instinctively Hawking turned his eye contact from her toward the man to my right who had already begun unnecessarily gushing a loud, thick layer of praise. In the process, without changing his head position much, if at all, and with me in the middle, Hawking's turning eye gaze made a sweeping cross-path contact with mine. It remains difficult to gage if that sweeping eye contact was as little as a half a yoctosecond or stretched into minutes. To me, that instant, if it was an instant, was like being hit with a hammer. The hollow ring sound of the stopped time was broken only by the continuing ultra slow motion movement of being turned away because of my underarm contact with the person I was with as well as Hawking's handler slightly tapping him as though he had fallen asleep. There was no meeting or greeting between us. No words were exchanged nor any Samsara or conventional-plane recognition or acknowledgement transpired in either direction. However, acknowledgement or not, in that brief history of time something changed."(source)
Nearly everyone, at one time or the other in their life, has experienced such an episode wherein time either seemed to stop or slow to such a snails pace it seemed so unreal you could almost step out of it. Fangio had the ability to both 'turn it on' and control it. Traveling with Landaker to meet Fangio was what I wanted to know and learn, turning it on and controlling it --- an intellectual exercise far removed from, but touching on the edges of Zen. What was to eventually transpire in Dark Luminosity was years off, and for me at the time, seemed a valid solution.
My all-summer-long travels in Mexico came about after the excitement of going to Nassau with Landaker in 1958 but before being drafted into the Army in 1962. I had tired of the day-to-day over-and-over grind of the same job I had held since leaving high school. At first I had been working on the high altitude breathing equipment for the then super-secret U-2 spy plane, which was exciting work getting to go out to Edwards Air Force Base and Groom Lake, but with the contract nearing an end, the job began to get stale.(see) When the skipper offered me a no-brain job doing brightwork on the marlin boat I jumped at it. Even so, the draft was still looming over my head and the fact my longterm semi-on-and-off high school and after girlfriend --- who had gone off to college while I remained home being nothing but a dunce working stiff --- hit me with the fact she had met and fallen in love with some hunkering down stud and they were planning on getting married didn't help. When my buddy, who was in much the same boat I was, suggested an extended, open-ended trip to Mexico I decided to take a leave of absence from my job on the boat and go for it.
My buddy and I searched around until we found a used six-cylinder 1951 Chevy panel truck perfect for the trip that was in pretty good shape. After pooling our money and buying it, over a period of a few months we outfitted the inside panels like a camper with fold down bunks, table, sink, stove, and portable toilet. We got a bunch of new fanbelts, radiator hoses, inner tubes and tools, then, early one Saturday morning we crossed into Mexico at the Tijuana border with no idea how long we were going to be gone.
We made our first mistake the same morning we crossed the border by turning east thinking we could get into the main part of Mexico. When we got to Tecate we were told it was, at least in those days, difficult to continue traveling eastward for some reason and to just go back into the States and cross at Nogales. The other suggestion was to go down the Baja peninsula and cross over by ferry to the mainland. We took the second suggestion and turned southwest ending up on the Baja Pacific coast near Ensenada. If it was bum advice to continue east or not I still don't know to this day. In any case, it worked out more than OK for us.
After leaving Ensenada we continued south on some pretty crummy roads eventually turning eastward across the peninsula to the little town of Santa Rosalia, taking a ferry across the Sea of Cortez to Guaymas. Continuing on we passed through Guadalajara turning toward the mysterious ancient ruins of Chicomoztoc with an interesting set of results, then back toward Lake Chapala, San Miguel Allende and a bunch of other places ending up seeing the pyramids in Mexico City and Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan. We stopped whenever we wanted and stayed as long as we wanted. Compared to most of the people in the countryside we came across, as well as the locals in the towns we went through, we had all the money we needed to spend on anything we wanted including gas, food, lodging, girls, and beer. A full accounting of the story, from start to finish, can be found by going to:
CARLOS CASTANEDA AND THE NOGALES BUS STATION MEETING
THE MAYAN SHAMAN AND CHICXULUB
If you read Footnote  you may recall I mentioned my uncle had charge of me over a four year period starting before I was eight years old through to me being at least twelve or so. After that I was fostered out and he returned to his home in Santa Fe. Even though those years with my uncle were my most formative and the two of us were really close sharing many good times and adventures together, after we separated, except for letters and a few phone calls years went by before we were able to see each other again. First, for a short time in 1968 then again two years later in 1970 following my father being caught in the fire while on the job. Because his outlook didn't look all that favorable, my uncle drove out from Santa Fe to see him. After learning my father's health was OK considering his age and what had happened to him --- as well as spending several days talking over old times together, my uncle decided to head back home. As it was, my dad held on, and as I have said, dying of complications from the fire two years later.
After visiting my dad but just before leaving Los Angeles my uncle, with me going along as well, squeezed in whole day with a long time good friend of his, the cowboy western author of over 100 books, Louis L'Amour. After that, rather than go straight to New Mexico he headed north toward the High Sierras as he wanted to see another old friend of his he had introduced me to when I was a young boy, a man of great spiritual attainment by the name of Franklin Merrell-Wolff --- as told in The Tree --- and I continued to tag along with him there as well as all the way to Santa Fe.
A few months later, in fall of 1971, after I left my uncle in Santa Fe but before I caught up with Landaker at Polak's, my uncle called and asked me to meet him in Denver, Colorado. Apparently the day before he had been sitting in a café in Taos, New Mexico when a Native American spiritual elder and peyote road man by the name of Little Joe Gomez along with two other men stepped up to his table. Gomez, who my uncle knew, introduced the two men then left. According to my uncle the two men said they were emissaries of a supposedly highly regarded Buddhist monk then residing in Boulder, Colorado. From there one of the most interesting roads trips with my uncle unfolded. For those who may be so interested please go to:
BUDDHISM IN AMERICAN BEFORE COLUMBUS
Regarding the trip to Sausalito and while along the way meeting Steve Jobs. Several years ago a-long-time email correspondent of mine by the name of Ken Fry was discussing Enlightenment Intensives with me, and of which, in so many words he favored and I didn't. In the process Fry mentioned Alan Watts, saying:
"Alan Watts knew about them. He called it A True Western Zen when I discussed it with him personally, on his houseboat in Sausalito, a few decades ago. Afterward we went to theTrident and ate boullibaise and drank white wine."
Disregarding anything more to do with Enlightenment Incentives, referring to the Trident I said, "So who hasn't?" I went on to say long before Fry ever emailed me, my page ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT: The Path Unfolds, was made available on the internet as mentioned in The Letter. Page two of the Zen Enlightenment page has a longtime appearing paragraph that, without mentioning Alan Watts DOES mention Sausalito and Emanuel Sorensen, known as Shunyata. If one knows their history, Shunyata, a man of great spiritual attainment, was invited to stay on the Watts houseboat in Sausalito in the "marina," spoken of below, not far from where I picked up my mentor. The reason Watts wasn't mention regarding picking up my mentor and meeting Sorensen is because Watts had died the year before, in November 1973, but I had been to the houseboat --- actually a former 1870s stern-wheel ferryboat named SS Vallejo once moored in the mudflats off gate 5 road --- several times previously over the years, just not in connection with Shunyata:
"In 1974 another of the few occurrences where the man next door mentioned someone specific transpired, only this time, unlike above, how I downplay the extent of my meeting withSwami Ramdas, I actually met the person involved. My Mentor sent word requesting I pick him up along the California coast and take him to one of the marinas in the Bay area to meet an old friend visiting from India. It had been at least twenty years since he had been on the mainland, so it was quite clear something important was up. Plus, except the brief encounter with Swami Ramdas as I have described it above, with me being brand new at the time I had never really met anyone from his past. Now, with some experience under my belt I was most anxious to do so.
"The old friend turned out to be Emmanuel (Alfred) Sorensen, known as Shunyata, a man of great spiritual renown, although much to my chagrin, that I was not totally familiar with at the time. He was European, at the very least in his eighties, spoke with an accent, dressed somewhat like an east Indian, and, as it turned out, truly one of the most remarkable individuals I have ever met. Sorensen, it has been said, was BORN Awake. My Mentor and Sorensen had known each other from the early years when both inadvertently met while travelling in India and had, unlikeUpaka the Ascetic on the road to Benares, immediately recognized in each other the aspect of Awakening. The man had remained in India since the early 1930s and had only recently arrived in California for a short stay."
It should be noted the visit by Sorensen in 1974 was his first or initial visit. In 1978, at age 88 he moved to California on a permanent basis, under the auspices of the Watts' leftovers. In July, 1984 he moved into a house in Fairfax several miles north of Sausalito. After living almost his whole life in India and with only a few short years in California, in 1984, at age 93, he was hit by a car while crossing the street in Fairfax and died in hospital soon afterwards. In 1978, when Sorensen moved to California to stay, I was living in Jamaica. During that period my mentor died. When I returned to the states I wasn't even aware Sorensen had moved to California until sometime later when the circumstances surrounding his death filtered down to me.
It was during that same leisurely months long trip north to meet and take my mentor to Shunyata that, while visiting a friend in San Jose' I met a young Steve Jobs who was at the time contemplating a trip to India. Within weeks, or maybe even days, of our meeting Jobs made his decision and left for India. See:
STEVE JOBS: APPLE, INDIA, BUDDHISM, AND ZEN
This Footnote is basically a follow-up to Footnote . In Sausalito my mentor and Sorensen were together for a short time after which I took him back to where I picked him up, returning I guess to his island off the coast. Sometime later Sorensen traveled to Palm Springs in some capacity to give darshan and my mentor, without me being involved in any fashion, joined him there somehow. However, when it was time to leave, my mentor contacted me to assist in his return home. You may remember from the main text above that late one night I casually participated in a semi high speed faceoff with an Okrasa equipped VW on Interstate 10 near Cabazon. Well, the original intent of me being on Interstate 10 ending up near Cabazon in the first place was for me to go to Palm Springs and pick up my mentor.
The Okrasa VW turned off on Highway 111 toward Palm Springs, the same way I should have gone except I was in the far outside lane and traveling way to fast. A few minutes later my Volkswagen blew an oil line or some such thing and I had to pull over.
The rest of the night was spent getting into Indio and making arrangements for a flatbed truck to transport the VW safely to Polak's. The next morning, after having contacted my mentor he made his way down to Indio and met me at the Greyhound bus station. From there we caught the first Greyhound to Los Angeles, a hot, stuffy, overripe, crampacked bus coming up out of Louisiana that had been on the road for two straight days.
Although a good part of my childhood was spent traveling all over the desert southwest with my uncle, very seldom did we venture much farther east than the eastern New Mexico border. All those travels came to a halt just about the time I reached the 8th grade. Even though I made many trips back and forth across country by plane, train and automobile over the years, mostly north of the southern states, after my trip with Landaker it would be 47 years before I would make a similar trip by motor vehicle that encompassed most of the same states Landaker and I crossed following basically the same route, including Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, only going west rather than east.
If you have gone through any of my works you may have come across the fact that at a very early age I was taken by a foster couple to India. I have since learned that going to and from India from the U.S. I traveled by ship. However, I lived on the west coast when I left and how I got to and from the east coast, because of what I call mitigating circumstances, is not known. Most likely it was by train.(see)
Five years later I made a west coast east coast and return trip by train that I do remember. I took the week off before the regularly scheduled school year Christmas vacation started, returning home the day before Christmas using the southern route through Yuma, El Paso, Sanderson, San Antonio, New Orleans, then to Atlanta and on up to Washington. The purpose of the trip was to the see the Kensington Stone while it was still on display in the Smithsonian.
While we were gone the whole upper tier of the U.S., and especially so the upper midwest, was covered in the worst snow anybody had ever seen, some places so deep locomotives and whole trains were completely buried with tracks covered for hundreds of miles with so much snow they couldn't even be plowed. A good part of the remaining rail service was shifted toward the southern part of the country and I remember we were caught up in it all both coming and going. No sooner had I returned and finished what was left of my vacation and started school than on January 8-11, 1949, all of downtown Los Angeles was hit with snow. The hills all around the civic center, the Hollywood Hills where the sign is, even Griffith Observatory. The storm was so bad that on January 11 the Los Angeles Unified School District shut down and declared its one and only district-wide Snow Day. It was bad enough the rest of the country was zapped by snow, but Los Angeles? I remember being totally amazed by it all as well as my uncle saying the last time it snowed like that in L.A. he had just met Albert Einstein.
Nine years later on my way to Florida and on to Nassau in the transporter with Landaker I was crossing much of the same route as my trip by train to Washington D.C. Then, forty-seven years after that, I found myself crossing through much of the same territory a third time, although under a completely different set of circumstances.
I had volunteered with the Red Cross for three weeks of hurricane duty involving Katrina, but it wasn't until six weeks later and well into cleaning up for Hurricane Rita that I was actually able to head home.(see) About that same time, with a good portion of their work behind them the Red Cross began finding itself with a redundant amount of material, equipment, and personnel. Some of that redundant equipment was what the Red Cross calls ERVs ---Emergency Response Vehicles. Hundreds and hundreds of ERVs had been driven from cities and areas all around the U.S. to the areas of devastation --- then, when the original crews had been rotated out with new crews made up of volunteers from almost anyplace taking over, and over time eventually less and less ERVs needed, without the original crews to return them to their homebase, hundreds of ERVs began to stack up. So said, because those ERVs without original crews needed to be returned and the cost of flying down hundreds of original drivers was way to expensive, the Red Cross began requesting already inplace individuals that were scheduled to rotate out, and willing to drive an ERV rather than fly, to do so. Since my deployment time had long since passed and driving an ERV across country sounded like a potential adventure I headed down to Houston to see if I could bag one off.
The person in charge of hooking up drivers with ERVs told me the last two ready-to-go ERVs headed in the same direction I was headed had just been assigned. One just left for the San Diego area, the other was leaving the next morning for northern California. He said it would be at least four, possibly five days before another west coast ERV would be fully checked out and ready to go, unless I was interested in going in some other direction, I would just have to hang out for a few days.
The driver of the ERV heading to northern California overheard my discussion with the assignment person and asked me, since it was 2000 miles to the delivery point for his ERV, would I like to tag along and share driving duties. Which I did.
One of the major highlights of the trip was when we got to Tucson and stayed a day or two because the driver's girlfriend was in graduate school there. During that period I met another graduate student who was on his way to Phoenix to interview the ex-wife of Carlos Castaneda, Margaret Runyan, who, since I knew her ex-husband, I ended up interviewing her as well.
For almost the whole trip the assigned ERV driver did most of the driving, at least until we reached the more populated areas of California. So hour after hour, dawn to dusk, I just kicked back and watched miles upon miles of the Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona countryside slip by. Except for how the coming of the interstate, which didn't exist in 1958, impacted all the little towns it bypassed in a deeply sad sort of way, not much had changed, at least on a grander scale, since crossing the same area with Landaker 47 years before.
Soon as World War II started my dad went to work at the shipyards in Terminal Island. Up until just before the war began he worked for the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company in South Gate, California. While there, after doing some sort of beyond the cause of duty work for some high ranking officials, as a reward, in addition to just compensation, he was given a very rare Firestone promotional object --- a deep blood red special-built scale model version of the 1939-1940 Indianapolis winner, the Boyle Special. It was an exquisitely handmade down to the last nut and bolt scale model, about 12 inches long, and just like the actual race car, had real (albeit miniature) inflatable Firestone tires on wire wheels. The model also had a highly louvered hood that was held down by little miniature belts and when undone and opened, revealed a scale model albeit non-operable engine. Just like the real car it also had a metal steering wheel rimmed with wood, attached in some fashion to the front wheels that by turning the steering wheel the front wheels would turn. My father was continually telling my brother and I the race car was not a toy and not to mess with it. Of course, every chance I got and nobody was around I would get it down and run it all over the floor by hand. As it was, the Boyle Special that won the Indianapolis 500 in 1939 and 1940 was actually a Maserati.
BOYLE MASERATI 8CTF