"I have read quite a bit of The Wanderling's writings and found it very intriguing. Much of what he has to say about Zen and Buddhism was helpful, but at the sametime I was skeptical about his apparent fascination with esoteric, 'new age' type topics like Carlos Castaneda, shamanism, UFOs, etc."As extrapolated from the Zen related Flapping Mouths blog (see)
Over and over people who read my works seem confused as to the timeline of events as they unfolded during the period I was with my Uncle. Most seem to think that so much happened during such a short period it is questionable that it happened at all --- especially since, just like the use of "Once Upon a Time," in fairy tales I am always interjecting "When I was around ten years old..." I do so because I WAS around ten years old, around, of course, being the key word. The thing is, in narrowing down any specifics in the around in "I WAS around ten years old" there are events that fall on known or historic dates. Those known dates can be researched or used to fall back on to coordinate with some of the events I was involved in. Other times some dates are iffy in that they fall within a more-or-less wider time-frame reference rather than a specific, given date. A big problem and one a good portion of you may identify with is, as life unfolded and went along at it's usual and natural pace, at least for me, I never thought about it one way or the other OR that any of it would ever amount to anything or need to be recorded for posterity. Inturn, backtracking here for what I present now, I have had to rely on such known events as personal birthdays, holidays, or even more wayout things such as phases of the moon during a given month to align events. Throughout it all there are however, two hardcore specific dates that I do know for sure, but for personal reasons, I do not quote anywhere in my works. They are the specific day, date, month and year that my mother died, of which a short time later was followed by the specific day, date, month and year that the man who married my mother's younger sister commited suicide. From those two specific dates I am able to backtrack, bracket, or pivot everything on.
However, before we move on, a quick word of explanation. First, when I write about my mother's younger sister I am of course, as it relates to me, writing in the classical sense about an aunt. So too, when I write about the man who married her, the man who committed suicide, I am also writing about an uncle. However, the uncle that committed suicide is NOT the uncle I write about in all my presentations. The reason I do not call my mother's younger sister's husband "uncle" nor her "aunt" is because I do not want to confuse him with the uncle or his sometime wife the powerful Ojibwa Midewiwin I write about over and over in all my works. The uncle I write about all the time was my father's brother, the uncle that committed suicide was married to my mother's younger sister.
Secondly, even though my mother died on a specific day, date, month and year that could be quoted if I so desired, it was not so much the fact that she died on a specific day than it was the months and months she was ill that led up to that specific date. As she became more and more immobilized my father began to farm my two brothers and myself out to others on a more-or-less regular basis. We went from conventional short term babysitting during the day to being with our grandparents overnight or to others several days a week, as my father continued --- because of mounting medical expenses --- to put more and more working hours in to make ends meet. As for myself, sometimes I stayed at one place for awhile, other times I was transfered back and forth, going beween foster parents, guardians, relatives and shirttale relatives, more often than not during most of those periods losing track of my siblings and there whereabouts. So too, the moves and transfers were never always done on even blocks of years or on even-times starting or finishing school. In my writings I have a tendency to break the changes down in much smoother blocks of time than what actually happened inorder to make it easier for the reader to make sense of it all.
The last time I remember my immediate family together intact and healthy, that is, with my mother, father, two brothers and myself fully together as a functioning family unit, circulated around one of my brother's birthdays. My younger brother's birthday fell on a weekend in October of 1942 and my parents --- the key words being here, "my parents" in the plural, that is, both of them --- decided to give him a surprise party. How do I know it was 1942? Because, to pull off the surprise party required my brothers and me to be out of the house while it was being decorated and guests, friends and kids secretly arrived --- so my dad took us to the beach for a walk. It was not unusual to wander along the sand with one or the other or both of our parents, or even grandparents, so it was no big thing. However, we invariably hunted moonstones on what was called Moonstone Beach in front of the Strand that ran north of the pier. Instead, this time, our dad took us a short distance south of the pier to see a highly-muted town event, a two-man Japanese midget submarine that had washed up on shore a few days before. He even lifted me up to look into the inside through the open hatch. What happened to that sub is not really known as hardly anybody except me, as found in World War II Comes to Redondo, ever seems to talk about it. How it got there is another thing. One of the few people who has talked about it is a then 26 year old Redondo Beach resident named Max Harris. Harris, an avowed eyewitness to the event is on record as saying that within minutes of the submarine being spotted six American bombers flew right over the top of it and dropped 50 bombs about 500 yards from the shoreline and two days later it washed up on the beach. Harris cites the date of the above event as being October 4, 1942. It is not clear exactly what the date Harris gives signifies. Since the sub took two days following the bombing to actually show up on the beach, when Harris says the 4th I am not sure he means the day of the bombing was the 4th thus indicating the day the sub washed up on shore was the 6th? Or does he mean the day the sub washed up was the 4th meaning the sub was bombed the 2nd? In either case it doesn't matter much as the bombing occurred in October, 1942 and I personally saw the midget submarine within days of it washing up on the beach --- and I remember quite clearly seeing it with my dad --- and we were there that day because we had to be out of the house for my brother's birthday.
Although the pace of change in my family may have been slowly increasing all along without me particularly noticing it on a conscious level, it seems to have accelerated quite rapidly shortly after the birthday of my brother in October 1942. So said, because it was becoming increasingly more difficult for my father to care for my mother as well as take care of three young boys he decided to investigate the possibility of a full time care facility for her. One of the facilities he looked into was an around the clock full-care sanatorium-like hospital in Santa Barbara, California. The day he went to see it he took me and my mother along. While we were there the three of us went out on the Santa Barbara pier. Toward the end along one edge of the pier was a crane-like boom that was in the process of pulling an airplane out of the water and placing it on a flatbed trailer. To me the plane was what I would call a seaplane. On its wings and beind the wings on both sides of the fuselage were clearly distinguishable bright red circular Japanese insignias. The plane was intact and showed no signs of visible damage. Years later I would identify the plane as a Yokosuka E14Y Floatplane. How such a plane ended up being put onto a waiting flatbed trailer on the dock in Santa Barbara I have no clue. Although the year is somewhat elusive for me, taking into consideration of other dates I know, it must have been sometime early in 1943. It was sometime after that my mother was placed in the facility on a full time basis.
Prior to my mother's placement and up to her eventual death, both of my brothers initially, as far as I can tell, stayed under the care of my father in some fashion. However, even before my mother's placement, I was sent to live with a couple who almost immediately took me to India, staying at or near the ashram of the venerated Indian holy man the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi in Tiruvannamalai, India for a few months --- the visit of which, for me, personally ending with somewhat startling results.
Although for many years I was unable to clearly recall all of the events surrounding the couple and India because of mitigating circumstances, my father, during that period of my life, wrote a handful of letters to my uncle which years later I read. In the letters my father said that the couple decided to go to India asking him if it was OK for me to go with them. In one of the letters he said initially I refused to go to India with the couple, making a big fuss, putting up a big battle, and throwing huge fits, saying I did not want to be with them I only wanted to be with my "real" mother and father. I just wanted to go home. I waited and waited for a family member or anybody to come and get me up but nobody did. By that time and unknown to me, my mother was no longer at home anyway, having become totally unable to care for herself, so much so my dad went ahead and placed her into the full-care facility we had investigated in Santa Barbara. Before my dad had a chance to respond to the couple, the couple, knowing full well that my mother was in a sanatorium, without my father's grace, took me to India, simply sending him a note saying that in the end I had changed my mind about going. Many of the events that transpired at the ashram while I was there were clarified years later by a long ago childhood friend of mine, Adam Osborne. Adam Osborne, the son of one of the foremost Ramana biographers Arthur Osborne, was raised at the ashram. According to what he told me when we met many years later as adults, as the only two anglo boys at the ashram at the time, and within months of the same age, we spent a lot of time together.
The foremost chronicler of the events surrounding me at the ashram however, was not Osborne's father, who was being held prisoner in a Japanese internment camp in Thailand at the time, but a visiting Ramana adherent and devotee C.R. Rajamani. The way Rajamani presents it he was at the Ramana ashram in the 1940s, albeit as he writes, uncertain about the date or the month of his visit. He says it may have been December or January because he remembers the season was quite cool and that the summit of the holy mountain Arunachala was shrouded in dense mist and clouds. While there he saw the white couple with a young boy and writing of the young boy reported the following:
"Within an hour of his face-to-face meeting with Sri Bhagavan, his mental barriers were reduced to nothingness."
Rajamani was correct in saying he was at the ashram in December or January because the couple, followers of a religious sect called Theosophists, were in India to attend the Theosophical Society's world convention --- the 67th International Convention held December 26 to 31, 1943 at the Society's International Headquarters, Adyar, Madras, India. It was after the convention, in January 1944, they went to the ashram.
The woman of the couple sent three letters to my father, two about taking me to India and the third about returning me home. The the third letter was mailed from Liverpool, England and, except for several long incoherent paragraphs about picking up a live survivor or two or none at all amongst several dead in a life raft sometime before arriving or after leaving Cape Town, South Africa, circulated mostly around the logistics of bringing me home along with a brief mention of the possibility of me somehow being sick, all the while avoiding any previous mention of how great it would be for me to be in India.
The life raft encountered on her return trip was from the British ship MV Tulagi. At about ten minutes past midnight Tuesday March 28, 1944 in the Indian Ocean the Tulagi was hit by two torpedoes launched from the German submarine U-532. The Tulagi sank in 20 seconds, stern first then rolling to starboard. Only 15 crew members survived, taking to two rafts. Approximately two months later, during which time the rafts became separated, members of one of the rafts sighted several small islands. They decided to make for the closest and around 11:00 PM that night they landed on Bijoutier, a tiny island of the Alphonse Group belonging to the Outer Islands of the Seychelles. The second raft has never been accounted for and it is the second raft that is thought to be the one the woman of the couple wrote about. If such is the case that would put the couple in the Indian Ocean on their return trip sometime toward the end of May, 1944 and most likely back in the states sometime in June, 1944 --- and in the process me having missed a whole half of year of formal schooling.
In a short series of follow-up conversations that came about over a period of time after the intitial meeting between Osborne and myself in the early-to-mid 1980s, he brought up an interesting tid-bit of information that, if accurate and without knowing it, inadvertently pinpointed one of the first specific dates in my timeline of events. Apparently a man by the name of William Samuel, sometime prior to the death of Osborne's father in 1970, contacted Osborne in an attempt to arrange, for reasons not given me, a meeting between himself and Osborne's father. Osborne's father was Arthur Osborne, who at the time of Samuel's request, and for years previously, lived in India maintaining a close relationship with the goings on of the Ramana ashram as well as a well being a highly regarded author of several well received books on Ramana. In the process of their conversation, which Osborne related to me many years after the fact, Samuel mentioned to Osborne that he had met him when he was a young boy at the ashram of Sri Ramana and that the two of them along with another young boy and a few other people including his mother, participated in Giri Valam, that is, circumabulation of the holy mountain Arunachala. Osborne emphasized to me specifically the other younger boy aspect because Osborne surmised through the gist of the conversation that Samuel thought the other boy (me) was his brother --- a twin brother --- because of our age, size, body build and look-alike curly haired mop tops. In the conversation with Samuel as it was passed on to me, Samuel stated the circumabulation occured on the full moon of April 1944.(see) In April of 1944 the moon was full on Saturday April 8th. That would put me still at the ashram proper in early April, but on my way home onboard a ship in the Indian Ocean, by previous reckoning, toward the end of May, 1944. Interestingly enough, ten years following the serenity of his visit to the Ramana ashram, immersed in the carnage of war in Korea, William Samuel was said to have had a major spiritual breakthrough, reaching Full Attainment.
No sooner had my mother been laid to rest, of which both her death and funeral I missed, than my father, who had been on a non-stop binge since she died, possibly before, hastily left the care of my older and younger brothers in the hands of others, with each being sent their separate ways to relatives or guardians. Then, without even waiting to see if his haze-fueled plans would be remotely successful he basically disappeared into the hinterlands for several years heavy into alcohol. My older brother went to live with my grandmother's brother and his family in some small town in the lower reaches of the mountains near Fresno, California. My younger brother went to live with my father's father's brother's son and his wife down along the California-Mexican border.
On return to the states, the couple, thinking I had lost my mind because of a somewhat skewed perspective of things I was exhibiting, dumped me off totally unannounced at my grandmother's on my father's side in Pennsylvania --- a grandmother I had never met nor ever even heard of. I don't know how long I was there, but from there I was returned to the west coast to be with my grandmother on my mother's side while arrangements were being made for me to live with a couple that just happened to own a flower shop in my old hometown of Redondo Beach, although they themselves lived in Hermosa Beach and I attended school in Hermosa Beach.
However, between the time I left Pennsylvania but before I went to live with the flower shop people, I stayed with my grandmother on my mother's side for a while. She took me to see her only remaining child, my mother's sister. At the end of one of thoses days together, as recounted in the Last American Darshan, the following happened:
"One day, after going shopping all day long in town with my grandmother and her daughter and her two children, we returned and pulled up in front of the garage. I got out of the car and opened the two side-by-side wooden garage doors. There right in front of me on the floor of the garage only a few feet away in the glare of the headlights, in a slowly expanding pool of blood, was Mac. The whole back of his head blown out from the blast of a double barrel shotgun he stuck in his mouth. His body laying there apparently falling off a still upright straight-back wooden chair with his once onetime skull full of brain now empty. Gone were all the synapses and neurons and everything that went with them, turned now into nothing but bloody silver-gray yellowish meat splattered all over the upper reaches of the nearby open-studded walls and exposed rafters."
A couple of paragraphs back I wrote that for many years I was unable to clearly recall all of the events surrounding the couple and India because of mitigating circumstances --- my stumbling across the suicide as described above constitutes the bottomline of nearly all of those mitigating circumstances. There I was, a young boy not long returned from India, without a mother, having missed both her final days and her funeral as well, standing with my mouth open, staring down on what only minutes before was someone else dear to me, not just gone, but excruciatingly gone. My aunt, stunned into disbelief at what she saw, with the car still in gear and engine running let her foot slip from the clutch as she apparently tried to step out of the car and run toward her husband. The vehicle lurched forward in one huge leap, crashing into the swung open garage door knocking it and me down and rendering me unconscious. It took months and months and reasons unknown before I suddenly came out of a nearly amnesia-like walking coma --- and even then, not fully so until years later. Everything that I knew and should have remembered about my mother's sickness, India, the time leading up to that moment in the garage, and being with my grandmother, either evaporated or was deeply covered over. I remember everything clearly while my mother was alive and our family was still a unit, but from the first day of the foster couple forward, days, weeks, months, were all gone. Matter of fact, for all practical purposess, except from outside sources and day, dates, and times provided by those outside sources, all of the Ramana stuff through the year 1944 and 1945 no longer existed in my conscious everyday thoughts.
As reported, following the death of my mother, my father dissolved the family and disappeared into the hinterlands heavy into alcohol. After returning from my trip to India I ended up staying with my grandmother on and off for an unknown period of time. It was she who was initially concerned about my seemingly askew perspective on things. In turn, because of her concerns, she contacted my uncle to see if he had any idea where my father was. Almost immediately my uncle came out to assist, the first of several trips before he actually remained on a permanent basis.
My uncle, who, although he had at one time met and knew both Rabindranath Tagore and the Zen master Sokei-an, was not totally versed in things spiritual. Even though not worried about my behavior at the level my grandmother seemed to be, he agreed her concerns carried a certain high amount of validity. My uncle was aware I had been to India, but at the time he didn't know I had been in the presence of a prominent Indian holy man. Even so, my uncle, through pure gut intuition and a long time running association with Native American spiritual elders of the desert southwest, felt my behavior was quite possibly spiritual in nature. He searched around for someone who might have answers and in the process came across Swami Prabhavananda of the Southern California Vedanta Society and then Paramahansa Yogananda of the Self-Realization Fellowship. He took me to see both not because he knew them or was familiar with their works, but for no other reason than both were of the highest profile in the Eastern spiritual movement that had taken root on the west coast during and following World War II.
For my uncle, as far as he was concerned, the meetings with the highly regarded yogis bore no fruit. However, 40 years later I crossed paths with a man of deep spritual attainment by the name of Robert Adams. A few years after my stay at the Ramana ashram as a young boy, Adams, then in his late teens, spent three years under the grace and light of Sri Ramana there --- or at least in the caves above the ashram. Adams told me he recognized me because he had seen me many years previously. He said our meeting came about because he himself had a self Enlightenment experience at age 14 without any idea of what any of it meant. Seeking answers, Adams, at age 17, one year before going to India, went to the temple of Paramahansa Yogananda's Self-Realization Fellowship near San Diego in the process of possibly becoming a monk with the order. He had been there a few months when I was brought in by a man with a beard to see Yogananda. He said he heard I had been to India a year or so earlier and returned with what the man with the beard said was an odd perception of the world. Adams was born in 1928 making the year of my visit and his two month stay at Yogananda's center at the age of 17, being 1945.
I figure the visit at Yogananda's center with my uncle had to be either at the beginning of the summer of 1945 or toward the end because I know where my uncle was during the middle of that summer.
On Monday, July 16, 1945 at 5:29:45 a.m. Mountain War Time, my uncle, who lived in New Mexico, was startled, along with many others no doubt, by a huge flash of light that filled the whole of the pre-dawn night sky in a giant half bubble arc across the desert toward White Sands. Unknown to him at the time, that flash was associated with the first atomic device ever set off on the face of the earth. One month later, August 15-16, 1945 found him well into the rugged terrain on BLM land some 25 miles or so from ground zero and not far from the small New Mexico community of San Antonio doing some research into plants of interest to local Native Americans that may have been impacted adversely by radioactive fallout.
As the day was edging toward dusk my uncle was jarred from his concentration first by the feeling of an intense blast of heat followed by a deep chest shuddering air-vibration caused by a huge, weird-shaped flying object, seemingly made of metal and whining like a sick vacuum cleaner that streaked in out of the sky almost directly overhead on a slightly down-angle from parallel to the ground. The object, as it crossed out of sight barely maintaining its height advantage above the undulating canyons and rock strewn hills, all the while traveling at an ultra high speed, by the sound of it, slammed hard, and somewhat explosively so, possibly before it even hit, into the rocks and soil some distance away.
What the object was he never learned officially, but the next day two men flashing badges and dressed in civilian clothes showed up at his home and took him to a secured area in Los Alamos. After two days of questioning what he saw he was released primarily through the efforts of famed astronomer and mathematician Dr Lincoln La Paz.
As for me, I figure it must have been just at the close of summer and the start of school in September of 1945 that I found myself getting out of a car clutching a tiny suitcase with nothing but a handful of crummy belongings and sack full of dirty underwear and not knowing how I got there. Standing on the sidewalk not much more than a simple beleaguered young boy with no mother and a father long gone, being taken by a stranger to live with a couple that owned a flower shop in Redondo Beach, a couple I was sure I had never seen or heard of in my life.
The above photo shows the main Redondo Beach business district sometime in the 1940s, looking all the same as it did when I was sent to live with the flower shop people. Shown is the era's downtown main street, Pacific Avenue, looking downhill slightly toward the northwest. Benita Avenue crests up the hill toward the old city hall. The flower shop was located ground level on Pacific Avenue about where the first awning is, just past the telephone pole, center right. As you can see the multi-story building is wedged shaped. The front of the shop faced Pacific Avenue but went clear through the building with a working entrance on Benita. The flower shop couple I was sent to live with didn't live in Redondo however, but in a house not far away that opened directly onto Pacific Coast Highway in Hermosa Beach. I attended Pier Avenue school in Hermosa Beach, also on PCH, but almost all of my non-school free time was spent in and around downtown Redondo and the front.
With the coming of the flower shop people into my life I can now once again start picking up a few more specific dates. In April of 1946 a fairly well established western bandleader by the name of Texas Jim Lewis approached the Redondo Beach City Council to run a newly renovated ballroom on the waterfront near the pier under a new name: Texas Jim's Redondo Barn --- which they approved. Lewis turned it into a western swing venue with himself and his Lone Star Cowboys playing at the top of the card, sometimes with as many as 10,000 people showing up on the weekends.
It wasn't long before the flower shop couple discovered it could be quite lucrative to sell corsages and boutonnieres to couples attending the dances. They also discovered that by putting a tray full of gardenias on a strap around my neck like a cigarette girl and have me walk through the crowds in the dance hall, the cute little kid I was, sold lots of flowers.
For reasons I am unable to recall, but for sure after I began selling gardenias a good part of the night at the dancehall, I ran away from home and somehow ended up staying with a recently discharged World War II ex-Marine taxi driver that had fought his way up through all the islands in all the major battles in the Pacific from Guadalcanal northward.
During the time the marine was battling his way from one island to the next throughout the South Pacific, billionaire industrialist Howard Hughes, as part of his contribution to the war effort, was designing and constructing a massive flying boat that would eventually come to be known, much to his disdain, as the Spruce Goose. The plane wasn't completed by the time the war ended, but Hughes took it upon himeself to finish the project. Although the plane was designed and constructed at Hughes Airport just southwest of Culver City, for final assembly and testing it was moved --- in several giant pieces --- to the southeast end of Terminal Island in the Port of Long Beach.
Over a period of six days, starting on June 11, 1946, an outfit called Star House Movers began trucking the two 160-foot-long wing sections over the 28-mile journey to Terminal Island. Their job was completed when the huge hull was successfully transported over the 15th and 16th to the same location after cutting or raising 2,300 power and phone lines along the way.
Early one morning in June of 1946 I was outside the old High Spot restaurant in Hermosa Beach at the top of the hill where Gould Avenue rises up from the beach and intersects with Pacific Coast Highway hanging with the ex-marine taxi driver I was staying with at the time. The two of us were planning to spend the day, or week if we had to, catching up with, watching, and following the giant flying boat. While I was drawing circles in the dirt parking lot with a stick and the ex-marine was sitting on the front fender of his taxi finishing a coffee-to-go, a black sedan pulled off PCH into the parking lot. A tall lankey man wearing a hat and a brown leather jacket got out looking around for a while and in the process making eye-contact with the ex-marine, followed by a slight head-tip toward each other. The taxi driver told me the man was Howard Hughes, the owner of the flying boat we were about to see and that I should go to talk to him, but I didn't.
So, it seems fairly clear that between the time Texas Jim Lewis approached the Redondo Beach City Council in April, 1946 and the Hughes flying boat was being moved June 11-16, 1946 I had left the flower shop people and taken up with the ex-marine taxi driver, at least on a part time basis if nothing else. My grandmother, who had learned much earlier that I was missing and had been looking for me on and off over a period of time, eventually caught up with me sometime during the summer staying by then, full-time with the ex-marine.
My grandmother, except possibly for the taxi driver and I having breakfast almost every morning at the Happy Hour Cafe owned by the infamous Fifie Malouf and maybe him visiting a "friend" there once in awhile in the afternoon in one of her apartments while I waited in the cafe, quickly assessed him as being an otherwise honorable man, thanked him for overseeing my well-being, then took me back with her, only to be sent to live with my younger brother and bounced between my grandmother, my Stepmother, or soon to-be-stepmother as the case may have been, and uncle until finally turned over to him before the end of summer on a more-or-less permanent basis.
As my stepmother quickly established herself as a major force in the picture she just as quickly noticed a propensity toward art on my part. She encouraged my Uncle, himself a fairly well established artist in Santa Fe --- and who had been traveling back and forth again and again over several years at the request of my grandmother all the time anyway --- to move to the west coast and oversee me full time. She set him up in a fully equipped artist's studio and covered all expenses, including models. All he had to do was have me as a protege', develop my budding talents, and arrange for me to have as many art and educational experiences as possible.
I had been living at my stepmother's compound only a short time when one day I noticed the boy that delivered the afternoon newspaper was hand-pushing his heavily ladden bike back in the opposite direction he usually went. Seems he had been several blocks into the route when he ran over some object that punctured the rear tire. Since he had something like a 100 papers in dual bags over the handlebars and rear wheel, plus the bike was a motorized Whizzer, he was reluctant to just leave it sitting, so he was pushing it home to repair the puncture. I told him I could wait with the bike if he liked and he could just run home and get the repair stuff. Thinking it wasn't a bad idea he did just that. After that, every afternoon that my uncle allowed it I would go to the boy's house and help fold papers and just hang out until he left on his route.
During the summer of that year the newspaper had a contest that offered a free one week trip to Catalina Island, all expenses paid, for selling the most subscriptions. The boy won and during the first part of September 1946, a few weeks before school started, he went, taking me along with him after convincing his boss how much work I had done.
Early one morning we were dropped off at the Wilmington boat terminal south of Los Angeles, sailing the twenty-six miles to Catalina on the Great White Steamer, newly refurbished in July from war duty. They put us up in a sort of tent-like village about two blocks behind the main street and straight up from the pier in the little town of Avalon.
It was there on the island during the closing weeks of the summer of 1946 at a then isolated onetime stage-stop high in the mountains of Catalina called Eagle's Nest that I had what I came to discover was a mystical experience. That experience involved not only the venerated Indian holy man the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi that I had met in India several years earlier, and who, to have made what happened, happen, must have invoked, for him, the seldom used supernormal perceptual states called Siddhis, but also the man who I would meet several years later that would become my mentor in things spiritual.
Several years after the man who was to become my Mentor became my mentor I learned he had, prior to moving into the house next door to me while I was still in high school, been living a semi-ascetic lifestyle on one of the Channel Islands off the California coast for seven years, having gone to the island in September 1946 on the occasion of his holy man's Golden Anniversary. Later research revealed that devotees of his holy man, Sri Ramana, gathered at the Ramana ashram on September 1,1946 for a great celebration honoring the fiftieth anniversary of his arrival at Tiruvannamali, the same time as the experience I had that night at the stage stop.
It is easy to extrapolate from the above time-date sequences that sometime during the summer of 1946 --- between the Hughes flying boat being moved June 11-16, 1946 and me ending up on Catalina Island September 1, 1946 --- that I had been found by my grandmother and removed from the care of the ex-marine in Redondo Beach only to end up under my uncle's guardianship at my stepmother's compound in Los Angeles. That move was the start of my full time stay under his auspices for at least the next four years.
Nearly as quickly as I had moved into my stepmother's compound than my brothers and I discovered there were three easily accessible movie theaters close by, two a few blocks up the street near Washington and Arlington, one near Western and Adams. In those for-the-most-part pre-TV days, we continually went to the theaters to see such films as Flying Tigers, Back to Battan, Cry Havoc, They Were Expendable, along with a whole host of westerns, Frankenstein and Mummy movies and a never ending supply of Tarzan movies, cartoons and serials. My uncle wasn't big on going to the movies himself, but I remember three HE did take me to see personally after he began overseeing me on a regular basis. No sooner had I fallen under his aegis than we went to see The Razor's Edge, the movie based on W. Somerset Maugham's 1944 best selling novel with a film release date of December 1946. Then a short time later the re-release of Stagecoach and a year or two after that the western Red River, released in September of 1948. For all three movies, except Stagecoach that may have been a private screening, we went to the big movie houses along Hollywood Boulevard that my stepmother always went to such as the Egyptian and Grauman's Chinese. Why he wanted to see either Stagecoach or Red River I am not sure, but I think it was a combination of two things. One, for himself, he wanted me to see the lavish background scenes of Monument Valley in Stagecoach and secondly he wanted me to see more upscale and accurate westerns than the usual Roy Rogers and Gene Autry fare I always went to.
As for The Razor's Edge, that is another story. I do not know if my uncle read the book before seeing the movie, but he went to see it one evening without me and came back all hopped up for me to see it, mainly because I guess, the story line. The release of the movie followed right on the heels of my September 1st experience on Catalina Island, and that, in conjunction with my experiences in India, my uncle was hoping I could put it all together in some fashion. However, in those days the time I was in India was just not reachable in my everyday surface thoughts, so the whole idea was all for naught because any connection was lost and way over my head. The unusual part of it all, although my uncle was highly disappointed with the outcome of his efforts, unbeknownst to him at the time he was right on target with his intuition because the real life person Maugham wrote his main character around in the novel, Larry Darrell, turned out to be the exact same person who a few years later became the person in my life I call my mentor --- and who turned out to be the same person dressed in dark clothes on Catalina Island.
I know by very, very early in the year of 1947, more specifically as soon as January 15, 1947, I was fully entrenched with the going-ons of my uncle and the quasi-family lifestyle with my brothers as set up by my stepmother. Why January 15th? That was the day one Elizabeth Short, otherwise quickly to become known as the Black Dahlia, was found murdered. The Black Dahlia murder was a notorious Los Angeles case wherein the 22 year old Short was found dead, her naked body mutilated and surgically cut in half, carefully drained of blood, then laid out in pieces in a field. Although I had to research the date, I remember the incident clearly because of my godfather. He had been called in by my stepmother to oversee my older brother at the same time my uncle was called in to oversee me. Ten years or so before he had some rather unscrupulous connections with a few even more unscrupulous members of the Los Angeles police department and still maintained a few of those connections. Through those connections, for whatever reason, he was able to obtain a whole bunch of official, albeit unreleased and classified, 8x10 glossy print photographs of Short's naked and severed body taken at the crime scene. While it is true that the crime scene photos of Elizabeth Short are readily available nowdays on the net for anybody to see in all their gruesome details, back then such was not the case --- and for me especially there was no intent on anybody's part for me to see them. However, as soon as I saw the bruhaha being made over the photos I had to see them. The first chance I got, not knowing what they were, I slipped them out of the manila envelope and took a look. Not once, but over and over several times until I was caught.(see)
All along, even from the earliest days, my uncle took a liking to me. However, I don't think he was too excessively concerned with me one way or the other to start with. To me, except to satisfy an ever growing creative side and fill a continous thirst for knowledge, he always seemed satisfied with me and my actions just the way I was --- that is until I came back from my trip to Catalina Island sort of rattled and he got out of me what happened. After hearing my story, which I sum up in THE MEETING: An Untold Story of Sri Ramana, right away he started figuring out ways to get back to the desert and take me with him. He told me there were people and places all over the desert, secret and sacred places that had people that would identify with my experience and me.
The earliest opportunity for the two of us to head out of L.A. toward the desert southwest and spend any amount of time arose during the 1946-1947 school year Easter vacation --- now called spring recess or spring break. In those days, spring vacation typically fell one week before Easter Sunday which that school year ran from Saturday March 29, 1947 through Sunday, April 6, 1947. My uncle had some sort of important business he needed to clear up in Santa Fe so he waited for my spring break so we could travel together. That trip was the first of several where we camped out along Meteor Crater rim close to the 1000 year old pit houses. The temperature dropped so cold one of the nights toward the end of the week we finally had to get in the truck and turn the heater on, eventually moving inside the nearby building being renovated at the time into a meteorite museum by a friend of my uncle, the famed meteor hunter H.H. Nininger.
In 1947, on the day before Easter, Saturday April 5, the Johnny Weissmuller movie Tarzan and the Huntress was released, a movie that, although inconsequential in the lives of almost everybody else in the world, played a huge role in my life. The timing of my return trip from the desert with my uncle did not coincide with me seeing the movie on opening weekend. However, because I was such an ardent fan of the Weissmuller Tarzan series, it wasn't very many days before I caught up with it --- and then over and over. Most of the movie, typical of the Tarzan movies of the day, was pure corn. What impacted me so deeply though, was when Tarzan's son Boy builds a glider-type plane out of cloth and sticks that could not only fly but carry him in flight at the sametime. Before he has a chance to test it, their chimp Cheetah, apparently seeing the glider's potential, steals it. Hanging on for dear life Cheetah jumps off some rocks covering quite some distance through the air before eventually crashing into the trees and falling to the ground.
After seeing that scene I HAD to build and fly my own glider. Under my uncle's guidence and a seemingly unlimited supply of money provided through the graciousness of my stepmother, I researched and studied everything I could find on manned flight, starting with Leonardo Da Vinci and His Flying Machines. Then, gathering all the info we put about building our own machine by combining our 1948 ideas with Leonardo's fifteenth century ideas and Otto Lilienthal's 1894 ideas of some four-hundred years later.
My uncle drew a lifesize outline of the craft on the floor of the studio and from that the machine grew into an over fifteen-foot wingspan glider capable of supporting a man like Lilienthal's, or a ten year old boy like myself, in flight. I am not sure what his exact plan for the machine was, but one day without my uncle's knowledge a friend of mine and I hauled it out of the studio and up to the top of the second story apartments across the compound, and hanging on for dear life, launched it. The following paragraph, from 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."
Two nights later my uncle and I were in the garage contemplating repairs of the flying machine, now hanging securely from the rafters when Howard Hughes walked in. The flight made the local press and apparently in the process attracted the attention of Hughes. As quirky as he was and as much as he loved flying I guess he just couldn't control himself. At first he stayed in the alley out of the light, but after talking with my uncle for a few minutes he came into the garage, all the while the two of them looking up and walking around under the machine while my uncle pointed out some of the craft's finer attributes. After a short time my uncle motioned me over and introduced me.
The next day my stepmother came into the garage, something she never did. She seldom ventured into my uncle's studio for any reason, and for sure, in all the time I knew her, I know she never stepped past the studio into the garage. She told my uncle she thought what we were doing was a highly admirable endeavor, but that he should watch over me a little more carefully as I could have killed myself. As she was walking out she turned toward my uncle and said she had heard "Howard" was there, then said he, Hughes, should be looking out after his own boys a little more carefully too.
That bit of cryptic chit-chat meant nothing to me at the time. It was only years later when my uncle explained the meaning behind what she said that it took on any semblance of understanding. I went to New Mexico to see my uncle sometime around the 20th anniversary of my 1948 manned glider flight in an attempt to narrow down the specific date when it occurred. After prompting him about Hughes' visit that night and a few days later my stepmother coming into the garage he began to recall the events and how they fit into the chronological flow of things. However, I am getting a little ahead of myself here because between the time I started research on making the glider, the construction began, the actual flight took place followed by Hughes stopping by a few days later, over a year transpired --- time having moved from April 1947 when Tarzan and the Huntress was released through to the end of summer of 1948 when the bird took wing. During that period a number of things I report elsewhere happened. That number of things, although spread semi-thinly here-and-there throughout a number of my works on the internet is quickly summed up in the following two paragraphs found in a paper about early UFO pioneer Frank Edwards:
"(My uncle) was given complete authority to oversee me as he so chose, as long as I received extensive education in the sciences, hard academics, philosophy, and the arts. So, as he saw it, travel was a part of the mix. Somewhere along the way he had caught wind of a potential new fossil find in the Arizona Strip related to the teratorn, a giant bird with over a twenty-foot wingspan thought to be the inspiration of Native American Thunderbird legends. When school let out sometime just before or around the middle of June, 1947, off he went, taking me with him.
"Done with teratorn stuff, a few days before the 4th of July weekend found us working our way across the desert after having holed up for some minor exploration at the Elden Pueblo where prehistoric Native Americans had buried in a ritual fashion an extremely rare type meteorite, thought possibly to have come from the surface of Mars or the far side of the Moon. From there we camped near the pit houses along the rim of Meteor Crater. One night, after a rather long discussion around the campfire about Albert Franklin Banta, the man who reportedly discovered the crater and the fact that he was involved in The Long Walk endured by the Navajos and Apaches, my uncle decided I should learn about what they went through first hand --- and while we were at it, visit the gravesite of Billy the Kid. Combining both endeavors put us near Fort Sumner, New Mexico."
As the above two paragraphs attest to, for the first few weeks of the summer of 1947 my uncle and I were basically traveling and living in some very remote sections of the Arizona Strip, moving from site to site and camping along the way with very little contact with the outside world. By the time we moved into New Mexico I had really lost track of day and date. I was, however, fast asleep in my sleeping bag somewhere in the desert near Fort Sumner on the night of, it is thought, Friday, July 4, 1947, when around midnight my uncle, who had been sitting up pondering the stars and possibly his insignificance in the overall scheme of things, through a smattering of clouds, saw a brilliant meteor-like object streak across the night sky arcing downward to the Earth toward a fast moving lightning infested stormy horizon, all the while dissipating a string of quickly extinguishing small glowing hunks or particles dropping in it's wake. Thinking it was a meteor and thinking his friend La Paz might be interested in a fresh strike, my uncle began an effort to contact him. In that it was long before the days of cell phones it took a couple of days for the two of them to connect. La Paz informed my uncle that from all indications whatever he saw streak across the sky that night it was NOT a meteor nor a known aircraft of some type --- but whatever it was, after talking with La Paz my uncle was chaffing at the bit to go to the suspected impact site and see for himself if there was any truth behind the so called Hieroglyphic Writing La Paz heard rumors of as being on some of the metal scraps.
Although what happened that summer in and around Roswell relative to me is explained much more thoroughly in Tommy Tyree and most especially so in Frank Edwards, linked above, briefly for our purposes here I went into the area within days of the July 1947 incident with my uncle because he was interested in looking into what he heard were hieroglyphs on some pieces of the debris. It was at least two months after the object was said to have crashed that he was officially called back by La Paz with me Meeting Dr.La Paz for a second time. During the first visit, even though I was around, sat in on, or overhead many interviews between my uncle and various people, I never took any notes or retained anything specifically for posterity. At the time I just didn't know any of it would ever mean anything. I was raised on Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers and experienced the giant UFO Over Los Angeles, so rocketships or objects from outer space or other planets just didn't seem all that unusual to me. I spent a good part of my time out in the cab of the truck reading comic books, sitting around in waiting rooms or narrow halls of places that looked like doctors offices or hospitals. Even more time was spent hanging out in dirty little rooms stuck back in the corners of hot, dusty hanger type buildings stacked to the ceiling with falling over old newspapers, out of date World War II Mil-Spec operator handbooks and training manuals, as well as grungy old coffee cups all over the place with spoons and dead bugs stuck in the bottom of thin layer of some sort of a dried-up brown, tar-like residue --- presumably it is guessed, being at onetime, coffee. It was only during that second visit that I joined my uncle along with Dr. La Paz and another archaeologist named --- I've been told --- William Lawrence Campbell, and actually went to every one of the then known or newly discovered debris fields together.
After leaving the desert southwest toward the end of summer 1947 the rest of the year passed rather uneventful. No sooner had the year 1948 come upon us, and before January even waned, my uncle had returned to the desert, only this time on his own and without me --- because of school --- leaving me to my own vices. He had gone to the desert to biosearch a plant called Sacred Datura, a plant that was of major importance to many members of the Native American population for ritual and medicinal purposes. The plant bloomed and was the strongest during the phases of the full moon and on January 26, 1948, one month after the winter equinox, the moon, at the full phase went through one of the closest passes to Earth in known history. So said, my uncle wanted to be in the field when it happened. The thing is, how ever uneventful the year 1947 ended for me, unknown to me at the time, 1948 was being set up to be much different. Behind the scenes the winds of change were beginning to stir from a slight breeze into a fullblown gale. That slight breeze started gaining strength toward the gale it would eventually become when, on May 19, 1948, a woman by the name of Brenda Allen was arrested. A few years later, sometime in early 1950, because of Allen's arrest, my dad and stepmother went on an extended trip to Mexico and South America for a couple of years because of what my stepmother viewed as an increasingly unfriendly business environment --- and it was their departure and the length of their stay away that brought about the demise of MY times with my uncle. However, once again, I am getting ahead of myself by a few years and will backtrack to the start of the summer of 1948, one year after Roswell.
The summer of 1948 started for me when school let out in June, which was a week or so before the official start of the summer --- that is, when the Sun reaches its farthest point north of the equator known as the summer solstice. In 1948 that day was Monday, June 21. It was a very special date for another reason as well. On that date there occurred a very rare astronomical phenomenon of the moon being full at the EXACT same time as the summer solstice. That time of my life found me out in the middle of the desert far from any school traveling with my uncle in New Mexico's remote Chaco Canyon --- eventually ending up high on the cliffsides of Fajada Butte, an imposing natural structure that rises 380 feet above the valley floor in an almost perfect north-south, east-west axis and not topping out until the butte's straight up and down sandstone walls reach an elevation of 6623 feet. We had gone to the butte for two reasons. One, because it is so huge it has its own micro-climate which creates an environment that grows a variety of plants used by the indigenous population for traditional and ritual purposes, plants that are not generally found on the surrounding plain. Special plants also grow on the mounds thought to be the one-time homes of the ancient astronomers. Although others felt that the plants were equally powerful wherever they grew my uncle thought that the power of the plants was increased by being on the butte, hence his desire to be there.
Secondly, high up on side of the butte and unknown to anybody at the time except for a small, highly select group on Native American tribal elders, was an ancient three-stone megalith of deep spritual and ritual significance. The human-modified natural structure that ultimately would become known as the Sun Dagger, had been made into a celestial calendar by the ancient peoples of Chaco Canyon. On the summer solstice the sun threw a beam of light through a separation in the stones toward a sprial image carved into the butte wall, the beam casting a visual image against the surface similar to a dagger. I never got to see the sun dagger in real life. The closest I got was on the ledge just below it that summer with my uncle. At the time I had never heard of such things, summer solstices and all that, nor did my uncle explain what he was doing, although many years later, when the sun dagger became well known he confirmed that was what he and his friend had gone to observe.
It was only a short time after returning from the desert during the summer of 1948 --- and before school started --- that I removed the flying machine, mentioned previously above, from it's construction lair and hauled it up to the second story rooftop across the street, then, holding on for dear life, jumped off. The craft maintained the same two-story height advantage for quite some distance, but partway into the flight, instead of continuing in the direction I wanted, it began tipping lower on the right and turning. Without ailerons and with inexperienced over-correcting on my part creating an adverse yaw followed by a sudden stall, the ensuing results ended with a somewhat dramatic drop, crashing into the porch and partway through the front windows of the house diagonally across the way. I figure the date of the flight was the weekend of either August 21-22 or 28-29, 1948, having arrived at those dates following talks with my uncle some 20 years later. My uncle was a strong promoter of me building an actual flying machine based on a Da Vinci design for a number of reasons, but most prominently so --- cutting to the quick --- because of how it is explained in the following as found in ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT: The Path Unfolds, linked above:
"At the time my older brother loved to build model airplanes and continued to build bigger and better models until eventually he was constructing huge gas engine powered remote control six-foot wingspan B-24 Liberators. He was also the apple of my father's eye. My uncle, noticing the situation, decided I too could impress my dad, only through art."
Hence, the building of the machine. The obvious fact that both of the August weekend dates for the flight fall perfectly into the necessary timeframe, although helpful, is overshadowed because of two other prevailing reasons. However, neither of the reasons are specifically able to be narrowed down one over-the-other because both reasons are viable in their own way. The first weekend date shows promise because of my uncle wanting me to 'impress my dad through art.' It just so happens that my father's birthday fell almost on the first weekend date if not the actual date of the flight. My uncle felt I may have selected that weekend to conicide with my father's birthday as a sort of birthday present. The strength in the second weekend involves the night my stepmother came into the garage where the wrecked flying machine was hanging from the rafters. If you remember, she told my uncle she thought what we were doing was a highly admirable endeavor, but that he should watch over me a little more carefully as I could have killed myself. As she was walking out she turned toward my uncle and said she had heard 'Howard' was there, then said he, Hughes, should be looking out after his own boys a little more carefully too. That bit of cryptic chit-chat meant nothing to me at the time. It was only years later when my uncle explained the meaning behind what she said that it took on any semblance of understanding.
Although it doesn't matter much in the overall scheme of things which of the two weekends are selected because both pretty much narrow down the time frame of the flight within a few days, I personally opt for the second weekend, August 28-29, 1948, as being the most accurate. I do so because one, I don't think my father's birthday meant anything to me one way or the other in those days because as long as I can remember it never has, even up to this day. Secondly, the comments of my stepmother as explained by my uncle. When she said something about Hughes looking out after his own boys she was making reference to film actor Robert Mitchum. Hughes owned RKO studios and Mitchum was Hughes' top actor. On Wednesday September 1, 1948 Mitchum was arrested in a highly publicized marijuana bust that most people thought would end his career, which was far from the case. It must have been a day or so after Mitchum's arrest that my stepmother came into the garage and passed on her cryptic remark about Hughes' looking out after his own boys a little more carefully.
The next date I can pinpoint involves an object with a little bit if not a lot of questionable history behind it, the Kensington Stone. It seems that during the time I was being overseen by my uncle under the ever watchful eye of my stepmother and her then never ending supply of money, there wasn't anything we didn't do or anyplace we didn't go as long as she deemed it in some respects, educational --- and I didn't miss any school. The only time I did miss any amount of school involved the Kensington Stone. When it first came up late in the year of 1948 that I (we, my uncle and I) had to see the Stone it was on exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, having been on display there since February 17, 1948. It was scheduled to leave February 25, 1949, after which it was going to be returned to its owners in Alexandria, Minnesota and replaced at the Smithsonian by a plaster cast. Concerned that the stone might not be put back on public display where I could see it in real life when it was returned to Minnesota my uncle convinced my stepmother he and I should go to DC and see it. Which we did.
No sooner had we left for D.C. than 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 since we were traveling the southern route I remember we were caught up in it all both coming and going.
After I returned to L.A. and finished what was left of my Christmas vacation and started school, 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.
The next date I can specifically nail down my whereabouts is four months later and circulates around a major western movie star of the period by the name of Roy Rogers. Rogers was the number one box office draw for kids my age and I collected all of the memorabilia on him I could get my hands on. Lunch boxes, cap guns, comic books. My two same age as me cousins, who lived in the mountain resorts a 100 miles east of L.A., had met Rogers several times because he was always filming movies right around where they lived, often using their horse corrals. The fact that they had met him many times --- and me not having met him even once was something they never let me forget. My stepmother decided to remedy the situation by making arrangements for me to meet Rogers. That meeting, which was actually the first of three, occurred on the occasion of he and his horse Trigger having their footprints set into cement at Grauman's Chinese Theater on April 21, 1949. A date still set in concrete in front of the theater for anybody to see.
I can remember a number of things regarding my uncle after the above event in 1949, however only one thing of any major significance occurred during the years of 1949 and 1950, and even then I am unable to recall any specific dates when it happened or if it was before or after the Roy Rogers meeting --- albeit, Rogers in a roundabout way is tied in with it.
My stepmother, who you may recall was quite wealthy, in her new found motherhood role, noticed my younger brother and myself, along with a bunch of other neighborhood kids, spent an inordinate amount of time "playing cowboys" --- with cowboy hats, capguns, holsters, boots, etc., and in doing so we often ended up in the street. Using her logic, she thought, what could be better than having their own real ranch to play on, especially so, not in the street.
So that's what she did, she bought a ranch. Twenty acres with a ranch house, barn, horse corrals, you name it. Then off we went to ride real horses and shoot real guns. Somewhere along the way she moved us kids up there, if not on a full time basis, at least on an-on-and off basis depending on school, etc. One end of the ranch ran right along the Southern Pacific Railroad mainline and not far up the tracks was a siding that freight trains would pull onto to allow the high priority passenger limiteds to pass. It wasn't long before my older brother and cousin were hopping trains and on one occasion I followed them, ending with me riding in the cab of a giant 6000 horsepower 4-8-8-2 steam locomotive, not once, but two times as chronicled in Riding The Cab Forwards.
Even though I had stopped catching trains north after my first attempt my older brother and cousin continued doing so, never going so far the couldn't return the same day. However, one day they didn't return, a trip that ended up involving a mysteriously veiled movie star, mobsters, being over 500 miles away from home, and barely escaping a beating from a railroad bull.
I am unable to recall any specific dates for those events, nor am I able to separate events from one summer to the next. I do recall several things that happened during the summers after the train adventure --- after that it is pretty much downhill. Both summers we camped in the same place, on the eastside of the Sierras along a fairly large creek that flowed from a year around glacier that inturn fed a number of nearby lakes both above and below our campground. We lived off the land as much as we were able, and, except for a number of journeys to places of interest, we only went into town once a month. The places of interest included the ghost town of Bodie, Mono Lake, the Mammoth Lakes caldera, Manzanar, and a couple of mountain peaks of which Mount Whitney was one. One of the most memorable events was my uncle taking me to meet a man of great spritual attainment named Franklin Merrell-Wolff as outlined in The Tree. During the trip to see Merrell-Wolff we drove up to Whitney Portal then hiked to the top of the summit. My uncle had taken me to Badwater in Death Valley, the lowest spot in North America at 282 feet below sea level a few days before and since it was only 85 miles (as the crow flies) from Mount Whitney, which was at the time the highest point in the United States with an elevation of 14,505 feet, we had to go there as well. While on Mount Whitney I signed a guest book for visitors that make it to the top and I have often thought if those old visitor books were still around I could find out the exact date I was there.
Since we were camping for the whole summer like a bunch of feral kids running around the woods all day and night loosly overseen by a couple of scruffy old men (my uncle and godfather) Game Wardens and U.S. Forest Rangers were always coming in and out of our campground. At first, because they suspected there was a possibility we were poaching small game, they would quasi-snoop around to see if we had any pelts or other such evidence as well as checking the trout or fishing limits and licenses and permits. Later, as the summer wore on, they just stopped by to have hotcakes made from scratch over an open fire for breakfast or coffee and chat.
During one of the summers of 1949 or 1950 a ranger who operated south of us in Inyo county came into our camp in Mono county --- on unofficial business --- looking for my uncle, having heard he had a strong reputation for being a rather successful biosearcher. The ranger, whose name I actually re-learned years later, was Al Noren. Noren lived in Bishop some distance from our campground, but still well within in our sphere of operation and exploration. In the process of fixing up his place in Bishop he brought home rather large pieces of gnarled old wood he found in a wilderness area north of where he lived called the White Mountains. While working the wood he noticed that the tree rings were so tightly close together that inorder to count them required the use of a microscope. My uncle, upon seeing the wood knew it had to be of a great age. He convinced Noren take us to the area where he found the wood, which proved to be a grove of ancient trees called Bristlecone Pines growing around the 10,000 foot level of the White Mountains, many trees over 4000 years old. Noren took us to a huge bristlecone he called or named the Patriarch Tree, which eventually turned out to be largest bristlecone pine known. The same strand of trees or a similar one nearby was eventually named the Methuselah Grove because of the ancient age of the bristlecone pines that make up the grove. We returned to camp and went back to swimming in the creek, collecting arrowheads, and living off the land for the rest of the summer. A couple of years later, in 1953, Noren contacted Edmund Schulman, a bigtime dendrochronologist at the University of Arizona and showed him the same stuff he showed my uncle. Schulman, who died in 1958, has gone on to be given credit as the one who discovered that bristlecone pines are the oldest trees in the world.
Sometime in 1950, and most certainly so by the time or during the summer I was camping in the High Sierras, my dad and stepmother went on an extended trip to Mexico and South America for a couple of years because of what my stepmother viewed as an increasingly unfriendly business environment --- and it was their departure and the length of their stay away that brought about the demise of MY times with my uncle.
During the two years they were gone things really changed, and not all of the change transpired quickly or smoothly in one year blocks --- nor to my benefit. A good part of it had to do with financing, which either began to erode, became sporadic at best, or just plain stopped while the two of them were gone. My stepmother's longtime trusted bookkeeper began to renege on payments for our upkeep such as mortgages, rent, utility bills, and day to day expenditures, then began siphoning off the money --- if not more --- for himself. My older brother came back from Idaho to live with our grandmother in the mountains east of L.A. before she moved back to Redondo Beach. My uncle, who I had been with almost exclusively for four years straight, found himself in such a position that he eventually had to return to his old stomping grounds in Santa Fe.
Just as my dad and stepmother were leaving for South America, with no one specifically in the picture to oversee my younger brother, a woman by the name of Pauline who had at onetime worked for my stepmother came forward and requested --- or at least consented in some fashion --- to have him come live with her. Shortly after the war ended she married a former army sergeant she met while touring with the USO that had never stopped persuing her. They bought one of those look-alike every other house had a reverse floorplan tract homes that sprang up all over in former agricultural areas south of Los Angeles while he went to work for one of the aircraft factories and she stayed home. Their plans to start a family showed no promise as four years into their marriage they still had no children --- hence her interest in my younger brother.
With my father, stepmother, brothers and grandmother all elsewhere with lives of their own and my uncle just on the cusp of returning to Santa Fe, I was left basically hanging. Without many options, after some heavy negotiating that bordered on pure begging by my uncle with Aunt Pauline, as we were told to call her, she halfheartedly agreed to take me in as well. I don't recall if I started an even school year or not when I moved to Pauline's to be with my younger brother, but I do know by April 1951 I was fully ensconced, however good or bad, and my uncle was long gone. I can pinpoint April of 1951 for sure because on Friday, April 6th the science fiction movie The Thing was released and the next day I rode my bike for miles from our neat and prim tract home, clear up to the suspect area corner of Imperial Highway and Vermont Avenue, the closest place the movie was playing. Pauline had told me not to go and not to take my brother, of which I did both and she was livid. I remember that date specifically because I got in a lot of trouble that weekend --- although, if I remember correctly, in my estimation the movie was worth it.
Aunt Pauline was decidedly different than most if not all of the women of the couples I lived with following the death of my mother. For one thing, during World War II she had traveled for the USO under the name Pauline Page with her own all girl band, so there was a sort of showbiz flamboyancy about her. Plus she reeked with a certain postwar 40'ish sensuality about her that went way beyond the traditional tract home housewife. The other thing about her was she was very heavy into one of the early health gurus, Gaylord Howser. My younger brother and I had a lot of meals in those days that circulated around skim milk, brewer's yeast, wheat germ, yogurt, potassium broth, and blackstrap molasses. She was also into what was called The Law, which eventually morphed into New Thought, promulgated by a man named Neville Goddard. Even though when I was living with her I was not yet into my teens or just barely, she was always taking me into Los Angeles, mostly to the Wilshire Ebell Theater, to hear Goddard lectures. For my first couple of years of high school, long after I was no longer staying with her, but instead living with my grandmother, she used to come by and take me to the lectures. Then one day she just disappeared. Unbeknown to me at the time, during the same period that I was attending the lectures with Aunt Pauline, a woman by the name of Margaret Runyan, who would eventually become the wife of Carlos Castaneda, was also attending the lectures. Years later I would interview Runyan in connection with some Castaneda lore I was working on and Goddard came up.
It was when the arrangements with Aunt Pauline didn't work out (i.e., I kept running away and taking my little brother with me) that, after my stepmother returned from South America --- and having divorced my father --- that I ended up spending the first of several summers on her ranch while living the rest of the year, the school portions, with my grandmother. However, the very first summer, the one just before I started high school, I did have one last swan song with my uncle before I moved into my adult years.
A few paragraphs back I mentioned my stepmother putting together a plan for me to meet one of my childhood heros, cowboy-western movie star Roy Rogers. At the time, April of 1949, I was still under the auspices of my uncle. He, after catching wind of my stepmother's intentions, thought the whole thing somewhat frivolous. So said, he came up with a much bigger plan, a plan that took a couple of years to bare fruit --- not coming about until well after the two of us were no longer together. His intention was for me to meet the smartest man in the world, the greatest artist in America, then the greatest artist in the world. In those days the three were, at least as far a my uncle was concerned, none other than Albert Einstein, Jackson Pollock, and Pablo Picasso. My uncle knew the first two himself so he was able to set those meetings somewhat easily. Jackson Pollock coming down from his studio on Long Island to the city after a one man show in Paris and the finishing of his last action painting ever. The meeting with Albert Einstein took place near a dock that was close to what I was told was a boat house, along some lake near, I guess, Princeton, on the day of a new moon night of August, 1952, that day and date being Wednesday, August 20, 1952. The meeting with Picasso never happened, my dad ending the planned trip to France by contacting my uncle somehow before we got a chance to leave. My father said he wanted me to return to California immediately because I would be attending a new school in the fall and needed to register. I was also informed that I would no longer be staying with the foster family I had been living with, but instead, living with my grandmother.
Following the trip with my uncle to see Jackson Pollock and Einstein in 1952, although we talked on the phone a couple of times and wrote letters to each other once in awhile, it wasn't until the year 1968 before I actually saw him again. However, at the end of May 1953, just a week or so prior the end of my freshman year in high school, my uncle contacted me from New Mexico with the first of several phone calls. He was all excited and without even thinking about me being in school wanted to know if I thought my dad would let me catch a Greyhound bus as soon as I could and meet him in Kingman, Arizona. He said it would be an adventure of a lifetime and that he expected all hell to break loose in a few weeks because the samething that had happened out in the flatlands near Roswell had happened in the desert near Kingman. He told me the news had filtered down to him through some Native Americans who had scouted the area that some sort of a flying disc, later to be known as the Kingman UFO, had come down in one of the canyons there. He said a couple of the Hualapai trackers who were part of the group could get us in through the back door. When I asked my dad if I could go he blew his stack. He got on the phone and started yelling at my uncle that he was filling my mind with all kinds of "weird and useless shit" and to stay away from me and keep his "cock-and-bull stories" to himself. Needless to say that was the end of it and I didn't get to go. Instead, my dad sent me to my ex-stepmother's ranch for the summer and told the hard drinking every other word was a cuss word ranch foreman Leo, who had been at one time, a World War II Pacific Fleet Navy boxing champion, to not let me "wander off."
Thus ended my childhood with my uncle. The next step in the chain was a two year period with the person I call my Merchant Marine Friend followed by my spiritual mentor in things Zen, the real-life person British author and playwright W. Somerset Maugham used as a role model for the main character in his novel The Razor's Edge. See:
THE RAZOR'S EDGE
LARRY DARRELL:- HIS LIFE AFTER THE NOVEL
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
RIDING THE CAB FORWARDS
As to the subject of donations, for those who may be so interested 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.
People ask me over and over why go to so much trouble in such a round-about way tying to narrow down the dates being in India when apparently there were postmarks on all three letters from India --- and most likely even hand written dates on the actual letter pages inside the envelopes and done so by the letter writer.
When my older brother and I were out in the middle of the desert between Santa Fe and Albuquerque at our cousin's place going over all the letters written by my dad and sent to my uncle, it never dawned on either my brother or me to record any specific dates about anything one way or the other. So too, even after I discovered my mistake for having not done so, at least as related to the India letters, I just figured they would remain an easy access as I saw it, my cousin having no reason to hinder my brother or me. However, even if that were so, that is, easy access and non-hindrance, all that was going to change.
A year or so later when I called and asked my cousin to relay the India postmark dates to me he said it would take a couple of days to find the letters. When he called back he said he was unable to locate any of the letters.
My uncle and his son were not close. However, although I am not familiar with the particulars surrounding heirs and those who would have been in line for legal receipt of my uncle's effects, it appears the bulk of it either went to his son --- or his son, being the closest bloodline survivor --- simply took it. The thing is, my uncle's ex-wife (the second of three wives, the curandera one) showed up on his son's doorstep saying she had the right to any inheritance. My uncle died in 1989 and prior to his death, even though he and I crossed paths many, many times since 1968 it had been at least ten years since I had seen or heard of his wife. Matter of fact, I didn't even know she was still alive, let alone in the picture. The following is what is written about her from the source so cited:
"He was married to a Native American woman thought to be a powerful curandera that was held in awe by most that came within her presence. Tall and straight-backed, with perfect posture and beautiful skin, instead of taking steps she appeared to almost glide when she walked. People were reluctant to sit near her table and the help was afraid to serve her. Some said they had seen a glass of water slide across the table to her hand without her even moving her arm."(source)
My cousin detested his father's ex-wife. According to what has come down to me, while my uncle and his first wife, my cousin's mother, were still married and thought by my cousin --- then in his childhood --- still a happy couple, my uncle began spending more and more time with the curandera, a liaison that eventually led to a separation, then in divorce from his first wife. My uncle was married a third time as well, but it was never made clear if he ever really married his second wife or if they did, if they ever divorced.
I never met my uncle's first wife that I recall nor his third, but, from the time I first met his second wife as a young boy up until the time I knew her on a more regular basis --- roughly from 1968 through to 1978 --- my uncle maintained not much more than a loosly related association with her and was, for all practical purposes, separated if not divorced. Although he seemed to hang out a lot with her, the woman he was loosly separated from was a Native American of the Little Shell Plains Ojibwe and a Fourth Level Midewiwin, a super-secret Ojibwe Medicine Society. The first time I recall meeting her it was in passing, and for the most part she never payed much attention to me one way or the other, although I sensed something very "different" about her. She reminded me of a lightning or thunderstorm raging in the distant mountains. You only felt safe because you weren't there, although you knew if you were, the storm had the power to wash you away or destroy you by the might of it all. Although personally long disassociated from the tribe for reasons not known, as a fourth level Midewiwin my uncle's wife was still a powerful curandera in the tradition of La Catalina, and like la Catalina, as mentioned above, held in awe by most that came within her presence.(see)
When I requested the information regarding the postmark dates on the letters from India my cousin told me his father's ex-wife showed up at the door basically out of nowhere demanding what she considered her due. When he laughed in her face and refused, telling her to get off the porch and off his property, he woke up three days later laying face down naked in the rocks and sand of a wadi miles from his house. When he returned home he discovered the place was trashed like a tornado had torn through each of the rooms. Heavy stuff like chairs and dressers were scattered all over both inside and outside the house, with lighter stuff such as clothes and papers found as far away as a mile in circumference from the house. It took him weeks to gather up and straighten out the place. In the process he discovered a lot of stuff missing, mainly with no rhyme nor reason, but it wasn't until he went looking for the letters specifically that he found that they were unaccounted for.
MIDEWIWIN: SECRET OJIBWA MEDICINE SOCIETY
Interestingly enough, at the exact same time I was attending Pier Avenue School a young boy a grade or two above me by the name of C. Scott Littleton was attending the school as well. Although I have no reason to believe we met or new each other in those days, in our adult years he became sort of an internet nemesis of mine, albeit a friendly one, because of what he considered differing views on a subject close to his heart, namely what has become known as the "Battle of Los Angeles," or what I call The UFO Over L.A.. The following is from the C. Scott Littleton link above:
"Littleton and I lived in the same general area on and off at the sametime, with both having gone to Pier Avenue School in Hermosa Beach as well as attending the same high school and community college and being in the Army, albeit with me following several footsteps behind most of the way because of our age differences. We are the only two "eyewitnesses" of any note that have come forward with strong narratives of the event. His reports come from his fully unobstructed broadside view along the coast from his perch along the Strand in Hermosa Beach and my underside and end view of the object as it turned inland and crossed directly above my house in Redondo Beach at a nearly dirt-dragging low altitude."
It sould be brought to the attention of the reader that Littleton was, as well, a prime mover in the advancement of Carlos Castaneda in his series of books on the shaman-sorcerer Don Juan Matus --- as was my uncle that I write about in this paper --- my uncle being the Informant mentioned in most of the Castaneda books. Littleton was a graduate student in anthropology at UCLA in the 1960s when Castaneda transfered into the same department as an undergraduate from Los Angeles City College. The two of them met through an introduction by one of Littletons's professors who was impressed with some of the work Castaneda was doing.
On the day my older brother and cousin didn't return, and by the time my uncle discovered they were actually gone and not off on the ranch somewhere, he received a reverse-charge phone call from my cousin. He told my uncle he and my brother were 500 miles away being held by a railroad bull in a switch-tower in the Sacramento yards.
In that there were threats by the bull of potential bodily harm befalling the boys plus a wisp of extortion in the air, almost immediately my stepmother made arrangements to fly my uncle to Sacramento in a private plane to ensure their overall well being and get them home as quick as possible. In the process I went along. At the sametime, concerned with the level of the threats, she called Johnny Roselli, a friend she knew who was known to be versed in the art of persuasion, to see if he could work his magic with local Sacramento associates to ensure the boys would be safe. Apparently in exchange for his assist he requested a person of some importance to him be flown from Reno, just over the mountains from Sacramento, to Las Vegas with a minimum amount knowledge to outsiders on our return trip. A request she agreed to.
There has been some speculation as to who the mysterious woman was that had the need to be transported covertly and without fanfare under the cover of darkness from Reno to Vegas. To me, even though I was personally never able to see her clearly she carried a certain ambience about her that reeked of being a movie star. In those days, since I was still a kid, except for possibly western movie star Dale Evens --- and maybe Veronica Lake for reasons unknown --- my knowledge of female movie stars ran kind of thin. However, while I may not have known female movie stars per se' I did know comic book characters, and one of the ones I remembered was Lana Lang, the female lead in Superboy comics and the protagonist to Lois Lane in Superman comics.
Why is it important? Because I can still remember overhearing the response my uncle gave the pilot when the pilot asked him who the mysterious all wrapped up in dark clothes and sunglasses in the middle of the night woman was. He told the pilot she looked like a Hollywood movie star of the era by the name of June Lang. Now I didn't know who June Lang was, but I knew who Lana Lang was, so putting the two together was enough for me to remember his answer right into adulthood.
First of all, the whole June Lang thing rests on the accuracy of my uncle's perception regarding any resemblances he may garnererd between the woman being transported and June Lang herself. Neither I nor the pilot ever saw the woman other than being basically covered tip to toe, and then only in the middle of the night out in the darkend windswept desert or possibly a little more from the glow of the muted lights of the cockpit dials. My uncle though, was the one that arranged for the actual transportation to occur, so somewhere in Reno when all of that was being set up he may have seen the woman up close and more clearly, maybe even introduced.
The thing is, looking like June Lang and being June Lang are two different things. So said, I have no proof one way or the other who the mysterious woman was except overhearing my uncle's response. He may have been under a gag order not to reveal who she was, so he could have just shrugged his shoulders when asked. Instead, out of respect to the pilot he gave a verbal answer, albeit ambiguous, saying she 'looked like' June Lang --- although he could have easily said Rochelle Hudson --- a movie actress and spy against the Japanese during World War II he DID know. By putting together the dots since then there is some circumstantial evidence that leans in the direction of his reply possibly being on target, however weak in solid proof it may seem.
Years later in my initial research I thought if the woman was Lang she may have been in Reno for a quickie divorce. In 1944 she married an Army lieutenant using her real name Winifred June Vlasek and it was weeks before it was discovered by the press. So I thought there was a chance she may have been in Reno incognito. However, although she did divorce the lieutenant eventually, it wasn't until several years after the events we are talking about here.
Then there is the Johnny Roselli connection. If you remember my stepmother contacted Roselli to put muscle on the railroad bull to ensure neither my brother or cousin was harmed in any way. As it happened Roselli had been married to Lang. They were married in April 1939 and divorced in March 1943. On December 4, 1942, just three days short of one full year following the attack on Pearl Harbor --- and while still married to Lang --- at age 37, for reasons not clear, Roselli either joined or was inducted into the U.S. Army. On March 18, 1943, while still serving in the Army, he was arrested on federal labor racketeering charges. The trial began on October 5, 1943 and on December 22, 1943 he was found guilty of conspiracy of extortion against the motion picture industry. Roselli received a prison term of 10 years and a $10,000 fine. After serving roughly three and a half years he was paroled.
Almost down to the day of his arrest he was divorced from Lang and almost down to the day of the start of his sentencing Lang remarried. It was not long after Roselli's release from prison than all this Reno stuff went down. It could be on my stepmother's request Roselli decided to intervene personally, so he may have gone to Sacramento OR he may just happened to have been in Reno in some sort of secret post divorce rendezvous with Lang. In that the mob often had ties to unions in those days Roselli may have requested the cab forward engineer to come forward and ask my uncle for the person to be flown to Las Vegas on the QT, totally leaving Roselli out of the picture or any with connection to the mysterious traveler.
I have not been able to pinpoint which of the two summers, 1949 or 1950, that I met Franklin Merrell-Wolff at his compound in the Sierras. However, I do remember that during the same summer I met him my uncle made it possible for me to see the planet Venus in the sky well into daylight hours. Apparently he had tracked it since sunrise and knew where to look. He had me lay down on the ground in a tall strand of pine trees that blocked everything in a 360 degree circle around me except the open blue sky directly above. There in the sky right above me in the middle of the day was Venus. I have not been able to narrow down which of the two summers such a phenomenon would transpire.
At the time I was around 11 or 12 years old. Twenty years later my uncle and I were on one of our infamous road trips, albeit one much later in life than the ones I typically write about when he and I were together and I was a kid. This road trip came about because my 65 year-old-plus father had been caught in a fire while on the job sometime around 1970 or so. He ended up with a collapsed lung and a good portion of his skin burned and most of his hair gone. Because his outlook was grim, I contacted my uncle who lived in Santa Fe. He inturn came to see him. As it was, my dad held on, although never fully recovering, dying of complications from the fire two years later.
After learning my father's health was OK at the time of his visit, considering his age and what had happened to him --- as well as spending several days together talking over old times --- my uncle decided to head back home. In that he had not been on the west coast for many, many years, he decided to first visit a long time friend the cowboy-western author Louis L'Amour then go north along the eastern slopes of the High Sierras and try to make contact with another old friend Franklin Merrell-Wolff --- and, like I write in a couple of places in my stuff on the internet (of which you can click through to using the links provided below) I went along. By accessing the second of the two links the following can be found:
"Prior to the trip the last time I had seen my uncle was in Taos a couple of years before. Since that time the events I describe inDark Luminosity had transpired and because of that he wanted to see what I called my High Mountain Zendo plus catch up, if possible, with an old friend he had introduced me to when I was a young boy, Frankling Merrell-Wolff --- as told in The Tree --- hence our trip to the High Sierras. I continued to tag along on his return trip home to Santa Fe."
There is sort of an implication by inference that, since I was traveling with my uncle I joined him during his visit to see Merrell-Wolff, --- meaning I would have crossed paths with Merrill-Wolff in 1970 as well. However, such was not the case. Even though I was traveling with my uncle I had opted out going to Merrill-Wolff's. Instead I requested he leave me off near Big Pine and from there I went to the White Mountains somewhat east of Merrell-Wolff's to seek solitude at the 10,000 foot level among the ancient bristlecone pines and meditate at the base of the 48 century old Methuselah Tree just for the heck of it.