Umpqua National Forest, Oregon, USA-Pacific Standard Time Zone
~~* Pilgrimage to the Golden City-Page 1 *~~
~~* Searching for Utopia *~~
Student on Okinawa
Proud and Lonely at 17 yrs.
I won't belabor the vagaries of my childhood. Suffice it to
say that from my perspective, those young years were filled to the full with
violence, fear and confusion. Inner city Philadelphia was quite adept at
nurturing such a climate. My youthful days were short lived and a bitter battle of self survival. The streets are cruel. Before graduating
high school at the ripe old age of seventeen, I enlisted in the U.S. Army
I managed to endure the three year stint, most of which was
spent overseas in the Far East. 18 months on a missile site on the Island of
Okinawa was quite an adventure for a young man. Having somewhat escaped the
oppressive inner city environment and finding a great degree of satisfaction in
seeing more of the world, visiting another country was very enticing. I had
busied myself on Okinawa with a correspondence course, majoring in psychology.
My mind was a fertile field, searching for a utopia and at that point the
study of the human nature seemed to be a key in attaining that quest.
After reading Walden Two by B.F. Skinner, I was all
excited about the prospect of creating a pure environment to produce the perfect
man to usher in a golden age of human history. It was an unfounded euphoria but
it paved the way for further quests of understanding and experimentation in the
domain of the soul.
From Philadelphia to Phu Hiep
In spite of my University of Maryland studies and endeavors
in art and writing, the allure of a war environment caught my fancy. The odds of
being hurt on a missile site were limited in my view. I was sure Vietnam would
be just as unique in it's own way as any place I'd been so far and it was
just waiting for my discovery. I volunteered for duty in the war zone (1966).
As I look back at my year in Vietnam, I can see that it set
the tone for the next several years of my life. I never did go to a missile site
but instead spent my days in a remote "direct support" unit on the
China Sea coast. The vast majority of my time was spent pulling guard duty at
night in an ammunition dump or trying to keep the night patrols equipped with
functional generators and the like. We were establishing a secure area with the
help of Korean, Australian and U.S. army troops. I saw plenty of napalm, night
flares and marijuana. All my waking hours were spent in a drug-altered state. I'd
walk around with a pipe full of cannabis all the time, waiting for my three-year
hitch to end.
During my stay, a Red Cross helicopter showed up at camp to
inform me of an emergency leave. Mother had died. That particular period of time
is a blur to me. The dazed stupor I was in, dulled my senses. Still smoking the
cannabis, I decided to return to Vietnam a married man. I only had a short stay
left in the Far East, so I wedded my teenage girlfriend and headed back to the
In August of 1967 I left the arduous military career behind.
I had done fairly well for myself in my own eyes. Most of my military wages
purchased a large beautiful diamond for my wife and bolts of silk. My wardrobe
consisted of some twenty-five plus suits, custom tailored on Okinawa and quite
an array of shirts and ties. I was ready for civilian life.
Not long after my arrival home, I landed a job in the Philadelphia
School of Medicine as a lab assistant and I enrolled in school at night in
the hopes of finishing some kind of degree. With working on weekends also part
of the agenda, my life seemed consumed in a meaningless pursuit of a goal I didn't
I landed on my feet running as I entered civilian life. Why I
ran and where I was running seemed to evade me. There was a gnawing emptiness
that haunted me. It didn't matter if it was school or my pursuit of creative
arts; every aspect of life seemed stained by a glaring lack of something true,
something real. Of course I lived in the generation that said they had an answer
or at least wanted to be free to pursue one. "Turn on, tune in and drop
out" was the chant of the sixties. It seemed as though many where in a similar
state of mind and heart as myself.
In the scramble for meaning, people were going every which
way. Some resorted to social and political issues. Others decided to search
within and without in a sort of pseudo-religious experience created by drugs and
nature. Spiritual teachers and organizations just exploded on the scene. Still,
many took the opportunity of the liberality of the times to completely immerse
themselves in the sensuous indulgences of sex, drugs and rock'n roll.
The lines weren't clearly defined anywhere in those days. They became all the
more abstract with the use of the powerful hallucinogenic drugs that flooded our
society. No matter what the emphases of someone's interests were, invariably
other aspects of the counter culture came into your life.
Communes sprang up all over the country. Each with its unique answers to the problem of living in modern America. In such a climate it was easy for anyone to be swept headlong in anyone of the flood tides washing across the land. Being awash in the head-trips of the time, my interests switched from psychology to philosophy and spirituality. Names like Buddha, Lao Tsu, and a host of others became part of my vocabulary. I couldn't get enough information concerning the "enlightenment" everyone was talking about. Of course there were drugs to be had, but I could see that it was going to take radical action to "liberate" me.
In the search for deep knowledge I came across one particular publication that illustrated eternity in such a simple and profound way. On the plain white page of this book of Zen Buddhism was a circle. The caption beneath simply said, The circle is the symbol of eternity. It has no beginning or end. With that, my mind conceptualized the eternal. It profoundly influenced me. Somehow that circle became proof to me of a spiritual realm. A realm that I could pursue because it's symbols and archetypes could be grasped with the human intellect. "Forever" became tangible to me with a simple symbol of art. A reality with an answer to the problem of world pain existed somewhere. It had to be found.
The Circle. How could such a simple geometric form quicken in me a concept of eternity and spirituality? The line has no visual start or end.
It was at this stage that I took very radical steps that
would forever alter my future. In one drastic leap I left home, quit school and
my job to venture off into the unknown. I mused that there must be an answer to
the questions of life and the dilemmas of modern society. Rumor had it that
there was a commune in Jamaica that was filled with "seekers" (individuals focused on the pursuit of truth).
Hitchhiking there proved to be a formidable task. The impact
of cultural changes in the northern states proved to be slow in coming down
South. Traveling toward Florida the harassment of the local police in small
towns became unbearable. In some instances, walking nonstop was necessary lest
charges of vagrancy be leveled against me. Finally, somewhere near the Florida
Keys I couldn't take it any longer. The authorities effectively forced my steps to turned around and head north again.
No sooner did I reach Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and the
police nabbed me with thirty dollars in my pocket - for vagrancy - and put me in
jail. I had not been loitering. Just passing through. Without permission to call a lawyer, after three days of cold grits and bologna sandwiches, I went to a hearing. Three hundred dollars or thirty days on
"the farm" seemed frighteningly ominous. After another few days they
permitted me to make several collect calls that I utilized to obtain the funds
The experience pained me as a great injustice. I had been robbed by a local government; something that no one could get away with on the streets of Philadelphia. This is what I was in Vietnam for? It compelled
me to be all the more diligent in my spiritual quest and reinforced an already
profound awareness of the darkness of the culture and times.
I received a ride from a couple of young men who were heading
toward Norfolk, Virginia. It was a long distance off and in the night, sleep
began to overtake me. The driver said "Go ahead, get some sleep in the back
seat. We'll keep driving." The next thing I knew it was
daylight and the driver was awakening me with a large bayonet knife pointed at my
throat. We were somewhere in the back woods. "Get out of the car!" he
exclaimed. I grabbed my backpack and stood in front of them both. "Drop
that sack and take your clothes off!" was his next remark. I
maneuvered just enough to get the blade away from my throat as I dropped the
olive drab satchel. Quickly I jumped on the man who was holding me at bay. The
other stood by wide-eyed as I put my fingers in the eyes of my assailant. We
wrestled but he broke loose from me. Breathing heavily they scrambled for the
vehicle and roared out of there. Silence. "Was this the way it was supposed to be? Why
was life this way? It must change! It must change!" My heart ached.
My perceptions of life sharpened with each passing day due
to the real world encounters I was having, outside of the confines of the safety net
that we often build around ourselves. Even with limited understanding, the
realization of what was transpiring all around me, all the time in the lives of
so many people, impelled me toward greater earnestness on my spiritual venture.
But even then there was a growing awareness that the material world was actually
a world of effects influenced by unseen forces. Those invisible elements
were powerful and the stakes were getting higher.
The next experience impacted my life more than anything
previously and yet on the surface all seemed friendly. I had made it to the New
Jersey coastal town of Wildwood without further incident. It was before
dawn as I walked down the empty boardwalk lining the shore. It seemed as though
it would be a bright day with relatively calm seas. In the predawn dusk, only
one shop was open on the wooden walkway along the Atlantic
shore. Looking in, I saw a familiar face from acquaintances I had had in the
"beatnik" hangouts and coffee shops in downtown Philadelphia.
Steve was a low-key kind of person with a gentle friendly way
about him. His greeting and smile were a warm welcome after my sojourn down
South. We sat and talked philosophy and religion. The idealism of the times was
evident in every concept we exchanged.
"I want to share half of what I have in my possession
with you. If everyone did that we all will have enough to go
around," I proposed. I took my last bit of money, bought him a sandwich and
coffee and felt good about myself. He said, "Well I have something to share
with you. Have you ever been on a trip before? I've got a double hit of STP to
share with ya." With that he opened up a small piece of aluminum foil that
held a little white tablet. Cutting it in half, he said:" Put this
'white wedge' under your tongue." The sun hadn't risen yet.
Does our generation always have to take a pill for an answer?
As the sun came up, the powerful hallucinogen I had, started to take effect. The
spiritual dimension I was so ardently seeking began to unfold before my very
eyes. Much of what I had learned so far in my quest for the knowledge of
"enlightenment", became a part of the reality I was walking in.
Magically I became sensitized to levels of energy and experience as though I had
passed through a door of some kind into another world. It was literally
incapacitating. Steve realized early on that I was on a heavy trip and
stayed by my side to avoid any catastrophes. At a certain point, as I was
slipping out of the real world, several people on horses galloped by, kicking up
sand and yelling at us in a harassing fashion.
"Hey Steve, why are they doing that to us?"
"They don't like us because we're different."
"Oh" I said.
We began walking toward Steve's
crash pad to avoid any further trouble. A vehicle came by, loaded with young
people and they also yelled at us and used obscene gestures. Somehow their
voices turned into black energy directed at us.
I asked my friend "What was that??"
Our conversation continued as he answered, "That's bad
I replied, "It hit me."
"I know man, let's go." As we walked I
became almost detached from my body.
"Steve, there is a power to move forward."
"Yeah, man, that's called drive."
"Oh" I said.
None too soon, we had walked clear
across the city, away from the ocean beach crowds to a dumpy little place filled
with beatniks and other assorted counter-culture types. It was a welcome oasis of shelter. Steve explained I was
tripping and they invited us in to smoke some dope and enjoy the "trip".
34620 Tiller Trail Hwy.
Tiller, Oregon 97484