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a story to tell . . . #1

If this works for me (and I've yet to discover!) I am initiating a new series of postings on this site. My main LJ site: Oldandeasy, has been given over to frequent postings on where my head has been going, of late. These can be retrieved, 25 in a recent bunch, with the 'cluster-retriever': http://oldandeasy.livejournal.com/

I assume that these, too, will be retrievable using the same format: http://oldefool.livejournal.com/  We shall presently see. For now, I'll proceed on the assumption.

So here's the first story I have to tell, here...

During all the pre- and wartime years (and on beyond) that I lived in San Francisco, and regularly read the SF Chronicle -- always my favorite paper, there -- The Chronicle had a rather mysterious columnist named Royce Brier -- mysterious, because his face was never shown. He cultivated a virtual legend about himself, in that respect. Shown from the back, sometimes, but never face-front. And as I grew up, that was the Royce Brier I became familiar with.

But in rummaging through my earlier life, as I've recently been doing, I've come across some events from years earlier -- from when my family lived in San Jose, in the early-to-mid 1930s. These things are not so much 'plagued by memory' -- for I actually recall very little of those times. Born in 1927, I was not yet 8 years old when in San Jose and these things happened. They are 'inscribed on mind' more as legends in their own right, rather than actual memories. And I recently discovered that there had bee something big on the San Jose scene, news-wise, that merely got rubbed into me, though not at all understood at the time. I was not really old enough to grasp it, with any understanding.

There was a lynching in San Jose, at a downtown park in front of the city jail. It was big news at the time -- heck, made it into East Coast newspapers, I'm sure . . . I think my Dad had brought some of them home. At least, his hometown newspaper, from St. Paul, Minn. So it did register on me, but that's about all I can say, this long after. For the rest, it has fallen into the status of legend. And I've only recently become aware that this old legend involved Royce Brier at a reportage level for the SF Chronicle. I hadn't actually recalled that, and I'd seem to have forgotten it by the time my recalled knowledge of Royce Brier finally settled-in.

Here's the story...

Kidnapping had a brief Depression-era vogue in the country, mainly centered on the Lindbergh child, which made big headlines in the mid-1930s, around the same time as the one I'm recalling. This one in San Jose had to do with the young son of a big local department store owner. I don't really recall much on that aspect, for this is about the two fellows charged with the crime, and what happened to them. Royce Brier was one of a pair of reporters sent to San Jose by the SF Chronicle, the other being Carolyn Anspacher. It was really my introduction to Royce Brier, though I had fully forgotten it by the time -- when I was closer to 20 -- that I was later captivated by his 'invisibility'.

San Jose was a fairly small place, in those days, and we lived in walking range of the City Hall and local jail facilities. At least, at my Dad's walking range. The town was in an uproar, over the capture of the two kidnappers, and a huge crowd gathered at that park; and I suppose, before long, they made use of a battering log to force their way into the jail and bring the prisoners out. Local police were helpless in the face of it; and apparently no state police were at hand. My assumptions, of course.

At any rate, that's what was later reported . . . quite likely, by Brier and Anspacher. And long-since forgotten by me. My later 'take' on Royce Brier had no recollection of this. Nor do I know, for sure, if my Dad actually was part of that throng. But he did have a way of watching thing from the sideline. And I must have known -- then -- if he'd been out for one of his evening walks, and into town. But I certainly have no particular recall, on which to base it.

End of tale.
Have you ever met a celebrity in real life? Who was it and how did your paths cross?


What seems to fascinate some people is how I crossed paths with Paramhansa Yogananda, and my personal impression of him on the occasion. It was a long, long time ago, as you might imagine (he being now at least 50 years gone from this Earth).

It happened in the early summer of 1945, my first year out of high school, in San Francisco. I was working for the Harry McCune Sound System, handling audio equipment for public occasions (a trainee, actually), and my assignment that afternoon was to set up and monitor the equipment at the Scottish Rite Auditorium then located on Van Ness Ave. off of Post Street. I had no knowledge whatsoever of who the speaker would be. It was just a job to be done.

I piled the necessary equipment into a three-wheel motorcycle and buzzed the mile or so to where the hall was, and set it up barely a half-hour before his scheduled talk. The only problem was that I had to be in the direct audio range in order to monitor the sound, and there was no provisional space for that. So my only option was to use a small table forward of the stage, between it and the audience seating.

There were only 30 or 40 people in attendance, in a hall that could have held hundreds, because he wasn't at all known in those days. I, myself, had never heard of him, and was somewhat put off when he came onstage from behind a curtain: a dark-skinned middle-aged man in a long gown or robe, who had long black hair, like a woman! This was, of course, long before the time of hippies and I had never seen a man with long hair. He looked, in fact, more like a dowdy grandmother, to me, than any sage. With no smile, either on his face or in his voice, as he began his talk. But it was just a job, as I say, and I merely stuck to my monitoring duties.

However, he threw me a curve. To begin his lecture, he wanted everyone to stand and join him in deep-breathing exercises. I had no idea whether that included me, or not. I wasn't really part of his audience, yet I was sitting there between him and them, unavoidably conspicuous. What should I do . . . participate or just stay seated? My only concern was to be as inconspicuous as possible. But I had to make a commitment, at this point, as to how it was best done. And heaven help me, I made the wrong choice.

Chalk it up to my callow inexperience: Fearing that I might otherwise seem to insult him, I stood up with the assembled audience and began the deep breathing exercise that he led them into. After a couple of deep breaths and arm-sweeps, he paused amidst the process and gave me the most foul glare imaginable, and I could hardly help but grasp its meaning: SIT DOWN!

Totally chastened, I did so. It was an entirely wordless confrontation, that 'meeting' with the Paramhansa, but hardly an uncommunicative one. Eye to eye, something momentous was transacted. And to this day, I wonder how that may have affected my life, which has been one of extended departure from various societal norms, though not without a good deal of attendant satisfaction.

Irv

Better eventually than never at all...

Well, guys, it's been so long I hardly know whether I have any friends left or not. But for whoever is still around to endure me, here are a few words to kind of account for my absence...

It has been a whale of a year for me, and I fairly well kept pace with it (except for LJ). But actually, I've been using LJ in another way. In September, you may recall, I started an email newsletter called Irv's Scrapbook, and right now I'm working on the third issue of it, which should be out in another week or so. It goes by email, formatted and everything, but I'm using my alternate LJ site to branch the articles off to, so I get a lot more mileage out of them. Can't explain it any better than that . . . if you want to see how it works, let me know.

October was spent mostly away from home. Almost two weeks in Washington DC, guest of a friend I met at a highschool reunion several years ago. An amazingly good time, and the basis for a budding relationship... if it continues. She's coming to visit me over the New Year's holiday. Something I hardly expected would happen at my age. But of course, I've no idea how well it will 'mature'. (An odd word to use, given our advanced age :). But she is young in spirit, just as I am. In fact, we're an exceedingly good match for each other. If only we can resolve this cross-country split.

Then I spent nearly a week, at the end of the month, in the Bay Area, for a reunion of San Francisco State College students of the 1940s! That was a fascinating experience - reconnecting with some very old friends (in every usage), including one that I haven't seen in 60 years! One of the girls who shared an apartment with my wife-to-be, who is now long gone. Hey, it's one of the distinct gifts of a long life!!

And a large part of my present focus is on the Mayan Calendar -- its approaching windup, when things are supposed to change dramatically for all of us. I'm just happy to be around when it's happening. But the really amazing thing about it is how well it links to my own life, and earlier awarenesses about it. So I have to give it some real space in my head. It could be a tremendous blessing for ALL of us.

Also, I'm taking a class now at the U of W, on the Millennium Generation. I've got to lead one session of it, later this month, and plan to do it on 'Being a Generation Junkie'. I have managed to involve myself, at some level, with each younger generation, just about every 20 years . . . and of course, I am doing it again! It's one good way to stay on my toes. (Well, figuratively speaking).

For now...

take care, everyone.
In fact, it looks like I'm a month behind!

Well, I've really been busy, this time around. In fact...

...this isn't so much a journal entry as an announcement and invitation. Yep, I've got something periodical going once again, after all these years as an old zine writer beyond his prime. And I'm feeling all the energy-surge of it . . . quite a marvelous thing if it holds up. If I hold up!

It's something that's going to serve me in several ways: to begin with, as a 'staging area' for the next book, that is well-begun, but that I haven't been able to pull through a year-long lethargy problem. So I had this brilliant idea for a way to kick-start it, and before I knew it the kick-start took on a life of its own. It will be several things besides, including the vehicle for a kind of 'kick in the pants' that I think this country needs. No, not really political, but calculated to deal with how the political scene has been beating us down. Hard to explain, without getting a bit of running room for it.

So what I'm going to do, here, is LJ-cut one of the key articles in the first issue, that is going out this weekend. You can take a look at it and see if you feel it might be worth getting from me. It costs nothing, and will arrive by email. Irregularly, as is my style. But I think I may be able to keep up a 4-6 week frequency with it. Maybe!

The only requirement is that I'd need an email address from you. So if you happen to want it you can send me an address at irvthom1@comcast.net rather than publicly through a comment here. I know how antsy everyone is about that. And if it doesn't quite satisfy you, provision will be right there for unsubscribing yourself.

Okay, here is the articleCollapse )

Suddenly, it all seems so UNREAL here....

I dunno, maybe it's just the mood I'm in. Maybe it's this late July thing, when things always look sort of different to me. Or maybe I'm just discovering why I've sort of lost interest in this LJ project. Maybe my consciousness is just moving up a notch, which would not be so far-fetched, feeling as I do about these times we're in.

Anyway, I wanted to make note, here, of the circumstance. I generally feel okay about people just being 'who they are' on LJ. Or if I have a problem with anyone, I might insert a gentle prod, here or there, in a comment. But I'm feeling something different now. I've gone through the last 50 or so things posted by my 'friends' – and I admit that most of them have not posted in that span; it's been sort of monopolized by perhaps a dozen of all the friends I have here, and maybe that's really the problem . . . that the rest are too deeply involved in real life issues, which is at least a positive recognition.

But as to the ones I've tapped into, I don't see a shred of concern about what is going on in the country right now! The ones I'm speaking about seem totally unaware of or unconcerned about the very real peril this country happens to be in at the moment . . . as though it's of no real matter whether we remain a constitutional democracy or not, governed by laws and a three-branch government, as was put into place well over two hundred years ago, and sufficed for the many decades of this country's reasonable growth. Maybe they are all too young to care about the difference evident in the undercutting of that world that has been steadily in process ever since this so-called war began.

It is so bad NOW, that we are going to see a confrontational challenge between Congress and the White House during this coming week or two, the eventual stand-off (which is almost certain to result) thrown into the hands of a Court that is no longer predictable as to how it will resolve the matter. We may very well have it judicially confirmed that we are now in the hands of a president fully empowered to do as he likes. In common terminology, that is called a dictatorship.

AND THAT'S NOT ALL. A strong warning is out and about, of indications that something is likely to set off a war with either Iran or one of the other nearby nations now undergoing a process of demonization by the administration. A war that, given the larger circumstances, could easily become an armageddon.

I mean . . . this stuff is actually going on right now, and reaching crisis proportions, but you'd never know it from the personal vanities and highly self-focused indulgences currently presented here by the friends I seem to have selected on LiveJournal.

Hmmmmm...

Well, I've got good news and bad news for you. You can take your pick.

The good news is that nothing changes when you reach 80 (IF you reach 80).

The bad news is that nothing changes when you reach 80.

I met a neat woman about a month ago and had my first date with her last Saturday, and it went great. Just a late breakfast in a secluded spot overlooking the Sound (Seattle's waterfront, you know). Everything seemed to go well.

But then midweek we ran into some misunderstanding, and I seem to have been left high and dry.

Like I say, nothing changes when you reach 80. You can take it as either good news or bad, from one who now knows.

Meanwhile, I want to share a great little video with you. Definitely takes the edge off of things...

Something truly astounding...

After, as always, too long an absence from this effort — I know, I know . . . I keep promising something more, but never come through on it. But this year is plunging ahead like a horse seeded with (what is it? Estrogen? Hormones? Testosterone? . . . whatever it is that's illegal . . . ). Yeah, I'm supposed to be taking life easy, now, but just try and keep the world out!

[Steroids, that's what I was trying to think of!]

For one thing, I'm being flown down to L.A. this weekend to be interviewed for an upcoming documentary. I'm not going to tell you what it's about unless you ask. And that's only the least entangling thing that's going on with me.

But the reason for this present and momentary return is really to bring you one of the most astounding YouTube offerings that I have seen. In fact, for all that is wrong about YouTube (yes, there are a few things), this single offering fully makes up for it.

Give it a try and see for yourself.

Yes, it's about time!

Yeah, I've been back from CA for nearly two weeks, now, and am just getting around to this. Life is strange at 80. I'd tell you to avoid it if possible, but you'd never remember my advice :)

No, seriously, things aren't really all that bad. I'm amazed at how much mid-day vitality I've still got, how much walking I can still do, how vital life still seems for me. It's only the way it all fades by evening that has me less than thrilled. And, to be sure, how many of my old cohort have vanished on me. Don't believe what they say about lifespans of 80 and 90 becoming common . . . there aren't that many who actually make it.

I did see a few of them, on my trip south. My old high-school buddy, Frank, can hardly get around, for his sciatica problems. He spent 20 years as an Air Force navigator, and the rest of his life as a Deputy Sheriff, but I wonder if he is going to last another five. My advantage is that I haven't owned a vehicle for the past 35 years, which has been salutary for my health (not to mention my pocketbook, and my peace of mind).

I returned to find that some of my LJ friends have deleted, which is harder to take than my lost youth. And I reflect again on the strangeness of this so-called 'friendship' business, here on LJ. And the anonymity that seems to be quite alright with everyone. I admit, there is no reason for me to expect real friendship on such a thin basis . . . but why call them friends then? It needs another name, like 'contacts', or 'tryouts'. Or maybe they are friends in today's world . . . maybe I just don't understand how tentative such things have become. I'm pleased to tell you that in my world, I've got some thirty or forty friends who would happily put me up for a night or two if I should arrive on their doorstep. Even unannounced.

Now that is what I would call a friend. And it spoils me. I want to be in real communication with the people whose lives I follow, here on LJ (and I do try and follow everyone's, even if my own LJ input has been nothing to brag about). I try to absorb 'who you are' so when I do offer a comment or two, I feel like it could be coming from someone who knows you and thinks about what you're saying. I admit, it doesn't jell for everyone on my list (which should explain why I don't comment to everyone), but know that I think about you when I read your input, and I have some opinions about you (if you're ever curious enough to ask).

I wonder if anyone knows what happened to Bridget McClellan, one of the deleted whom I really do miss. (You see? I wouldn't even ask that, about a contact or a tryout. And why should I bother, if I already have so many friends? Only because real friends kind of rely on each other being there. It's part of what makes life worthwhile . . . Yes, even up to the age of 80).

I did want to say something about the way this year is opening. I'm picking up on a lot of tension out there, with odd kinds of hangups in the way things are happening. It's like a huge energy-buildup is underway, and somewhat worrisome for what the summer might be like. Normally, summertime has all the year's intensity; but normally, the rise of it is gentle this early along the way . . . doesn't start to really register until late in June or beyond. So my advice is to be especially observant of things and generally looking out for your own well-being. You might have to lay back a bit, before summer is done with. Get into some early morning meditation.

Reflections

In another couple of days, I'll be off on my annual Spring vacation to the Bay Area -- my way of undercutting the long Seattle winter. Although I got crossed up with it last year, when it rained more down there than it did up here. But that was part of a 'bad year' pattern for me . . . it's going to be different this time.

And when I get back, I shall have arrived, officially, in Octogenarian-land! And damn . . . I'm still having a hard time believing that. A pal of mine down there, and I, will be celebrating it together. I call him my twin, because he and I were born a day apart, on opposite sides of the bay. Yep, Al and I were just a day and a bay apart. He's the older one. I didn't meet him until we were both about 50.

Technically, I guess I'm part of what has been called the Greatest Generation. But I'm not bragging about it. In fact, I don't really consider myself part of it. Mainly, because I never got into the war. Not that I didn't try, but a lousy heart murmur kept me out of it. A kind of disgrace, at the time. And it turned out to be an albatross around my neck, in the long run. No GI Bill for me, which meant a struggle just to get only part way through college, and no breaks on home loans or other perks . . . I even found myself losing handicap points on civil service job exams. It kind of set me apart for my whole subsequent life.

But in the long run, I'm fairly happy with how that worked out, being an outsider just about as far as it can be stretched. They did well, in a desperate war that had to be won (their tactical skills make today's effort look pretty damned puny), but I think they blew it when it came to making the resultant world a better place to live. I think the whole rotten thrust of today's corporate society had its best growth years in their hands. I mean, things have been going downhill ever since they started getting greedy.

No, you guys here wouldn't know that. It's not in the history books that way. But it was like a wild-ass homesteading run . . . find your piece of corporate 'property' and let the devil take the hindmost. No holds barred, in the crazy gold rush that followed, once it really got underway. Maybe it started when the century began, maybe even earlier, but it was that Greatest Generation that devised the tax structures, the credit card games, the consumerism-without-limits that never, EVER found a point at which enough was enough. And they, of course, were the ones that wrote the history books that have told you guys how great they were, to have put together what we have today.

Yes, I guess I'm somewhat jaundiced. I wonder what you'll be like, if you make it to 80?

What's on my mind

My recent entry on hitch-hiking brought in a response from a young photographer who said she hadn''t ever experienced community . . . which both saddened and surprised me. The surprise, because I tend to think of LJ as an exercise in community. In fact, there are more than 700 groups on LJ that employ community (or communities) as one of their interests.

Yeah, it's an odd kind of community, in that it never 'gets together' except perhaps in small and no doubt private settings. But then community has always had a variety of definitions. The sad part, however, is that community is one of the primary things that the so called flower-kids counter-culture was all about. A time in cultural history that comes in for some pretty sorry judgement, these days. But I, myself - the very life I've lived, for the latter half of it - am a direct product of those years and that culture. So I of course think it sad, to hear it said by anyone at all, but particularly by young folks, that they don't know the experience of community.

And then I have to reflect that I really know what that's all about. In the two decades or so that I was part of the wage-earning world, and from among the 60-odd places I must have worked over that time, I met and worked with a lot of people but I have not a single friend to show for it, today. It is simply NOT an environment for the creation of community. From the nearly four decades since I left that 'dead world', I have collected friends here, there, and everywhere, many of whom I am still involved or in contact with. More, in fact, whom I lost to death, over the course of that time, than to the kind of distancing that is so often the case with friends-on-the-job.

So I know what this young lady meant . . . I know what she meant. And my clearest hope is that our society will oneday return to putting a high value on community, take it to heart and begin to experiment with it again. The main thing standing in its way is that we basically compete with each other in the worlds we occupy. For jobs, for lovers, for money, for status, for achievement, for recognition . . . in other words, we live in self-created worlds of scarcity, in the very midst of more than enough to go around. Doesn't that seem quite stupid?