MEME MOI ET MOI MEME; A MEMOIR

Growing up I always believed I led a relatively dull life compared to those miraculous holy people like Yogananda and Black Elk. I wished I could have been one of those people who experienced really amazing impossible phenomena; UFOs, ghosts, spirit healing, etc. Then, not that long ago it occurred to me that I sort of am one of those people and I was one even when I thought I wasn’t. It’s just that at the time the truly remarkable events seemed more like distant chocolate chips in a boring desert of a cookie world. Only once in a blue moon did the breakthroughs appear. But as one trusts more and more in  the  sameness of the other and the possibility of the unreality of reality the frequency of events increases.

Please allow me to introduce myself. I am King if the Universe.

People know me as a singer or an artist or a few other things but the search for truth is my main interest. Or is it happiness?

What is God? What is the cause of everything?

I was 43, staying in Rhona Goldsand’s guest room (after having been kicked out of the shaman’s nest at the Wittenberg Center) waiting for recording time to drop in for a few hours here and there so we could finish WALKING IN THE DAYS OF THE PROPHECIES at Applehead in Woodstock. The producer, Marc Hayden (Jargow), was a contractor bartering work by himself and sometimes me for recording time during the adventurous early years of Mike Birnbaum’s world class studio expansions. We were not getting into the studio if there was a paying customer so I was on semi-permanent standby and weeks stretched into months as I was generally planning to return to Brooklyn once I had the album finished. The Goddess had other plans for me.  I had just met and received darshan from Bhagavan Das. I had cathartic spiritual shake-ups, including visions, energy moving sensations and crying. I was at that point when I fervently desired to meet God. Bhagavan taught that one could chant for Krishna a lifetime and never see him, but chant Kali and she will come. So I did and She did. I am so happy to tell you about this. Kali has a bad reputation as a vengeful and murderous deity, the black goddess with a garland of severed heads, who holds a sword and the decapitated head of her devotee, while dancing on the supine form of Shiva.

Bhagavan taught that Kali will strip away the unnecessary things you are attached to. Whatever is most important to you, she will take it away. This was true, as I lost the use of my car in a crash foretold in a dream. Not having a car meant I had to move into a much better and less expensive living situation right in town and led me to carve an acoustic music venue out of a friend’s oversized store with kitchen facilities.

A few days after my encounters with the Goddess (when I chanted) I woke up in the morning. I was sure that something had awakened me but I didn’t know what. I hadn’t yet opened my eyes but I was listening for any sound and heard none. At this point a clear and calm woman’s voice spoke distinctly at conversational volume and said, ”You are king of the universe”.

Only it wasn’t spoken into the air of the room. It was inside my head. That was over 22 years ago at this writing and there has been, it seems, a fairly graceful arc to my acceptance of the implications of the concept.

A few days later I woke up from a remarkable dream about feathers.

CHAPTER 2

Two years earlier I had visited a holy man in Hopiland, said to be the last of the snake dancers but I don’t know. His daughter told me about a feather shortage there, caused apparently by foliage loss which she said was brought on by Peabody Coal sucking the water out from under a high desert paradise to sluice coal for the Las Vegas power grid. So I started sending him feathers. In this dream I was walking in a park or perhaps a zoo. Across a large lawn I saw a bluejay flying and he let a feather fall. I picked it up. Then I saw a cardinal (solid red bird) quite far away and it also dropped a feather but in mid-air it changed course and flew right to me and I picked it up. Then the path went underground and there were many many feathers, mostly downy and white on both sides of the path, like those I’d seen in the seagull rookery on Great Island. I scooped up lots of them knowing I’d send them to Grandfather Titus.

The next day I got an emergency phone call from Fatima, the astrologer and benefactress of Clayton, my impetuous folk rock star best friend. Impossibly temperamental, I felt protective of him and she called to report that he was about to be evicted from the free place where he was living because he was frightening the other occupants of the house, all women, with tantrums and door slamming, etc. He was in a protracted rage but I was able to talk him down on the phone. I got him simmered down enough to have time to drive over and smooth out the situation with him and the mother and two daughters who lived there without worrying about what he might do. Feeling heroic and proud of my peacemaking abilities I jumped in the car and sped off to the house on Glasco Turnpike at Lower Byrdcliffe. In my heady righteous haste I had neglected to pay attention to the weather, which was changing from light rain to freezing rain, on its way to snow. I hadn’t even put on a coat. About a mile from Rhona’s on John Joy Road the road went left and I turned the wheel and nothing happened. The car’s direction did not change. The brakes were useless too and I slammed directly into the snowbank beneath the Purdy Hollow road sign at a pretty good clip but the seatbelt held me nicely and I was unharmed. There was a powerful impact as the old Volvo hit a snow-covered boulder which submarined under the center of the engine and shoved the gearbox up about 6 inches. The heavy iron signpost was so close to the driver’s side the door wouldn’t open. The boulder on the passenger side barely allowed enough room for me to get out. I climbed over the gearbox and squoze out the door. I realized it was snowing, it was getting dark and I was a mile from home without a jacket. The second I realized how screwed I was a blue car came over the hill, the first car I’d seen since leaving home. I flagged him down and he was more than happy to give me a ride home, even though it was in the other direction from his line of travel.  His name was Jay. In the dream a blue jay gave me a feather.  Later a cardinal.

I was unharmed but shaken up and worrying about how I could survive without a car.

As the Goddess would have it, the gig I had that night was within walking distance. The poet Danny Propper (1937-2003) liked my songs and had asked me to open for him at a poetry reading at New World Home Cooking on Zena Rd. I don’t think many readings happened there and it was three miles out of town, but amazingly it was just a few hundred yards from Rhona’s. Only a few people were there. After the show a woman poet, seeing I was carless, offered me a ride home in her red car.  As she pulled up to the house I opened the door and the dome light went on, revealing the all red interior –seats, steering wheel and dashboard. In the middle of the dashboard there was a large picture of a cardinal.

When this happened I realized instantly that the loss of my car (which proved to be temporary) was not a bad thing. It was pre-ordained by the Goddess or whatever determines what happens and I trusted that she had a higher purpose. I could no longer live three miles out of town, especially in winter. There was a room available right in town upstairs from the Vedantic Light Center, 71 Tinker St, where I had received the potent darshan of Bhagavan Das only a week or so earlier. I rented there from Vedantic businessman Ira and his lovely wife Sophia starting in January 1994 and moved with them up the hill to 6 Hillcrest in 1996 where I still live today. I was able to buy the building from them in November 2013 due to the great generosity of Helene Winer.

The reason the Tinker St. room was available at a very low rent was the roommate, Mark. He had so terrified the previous occupant (the landlords’ friend Sam) that he moved out and left the room empty. Later Sam famously ran out in the street, screaming, “He has a gun!”, after a chance encounter with Mark at the Bearsville Store.  Woodstock is amusing like that.

Across the steet from the Vedantic Light Center was  Dharmaware, the first store I ever went into in Woodstock, because of the interesting and exotic products and also because the owner, Erik, hired pretty girls who didn’t mind talking to the customers. It was a tiny hole in the wall when I came in 1990 but in 1993 Erik had taken over a much larger adjacent store which had been an ice cream parlor and now had both spaces.

I had a strong desire to perform my songs more often and Erik was amenable to my sitting in his store and singing from 4-7 on the weekends.

He was always threatening to close the larger store but I wanted to keep it open so I’d have a place to play. His help was stealing from him; not a lot but business was very bad in the 90s and he probably wasn’t paying them what he should. The main cashier had a truly split personality. She was a country girl with a puritanical attitude but there must have been other stuff going on in her family. She would be very judgmental of others but she was also pocketing money from the till. She would disappear every once in a while as well and it turned out she was stripping at the Baby Doll Lounge on Walker and West Broadway and after a while she didn’t return.

In January, when I started living across the street I proposed to work there fulltime in return for being able to put on acoustic music shows and eat as much as I wanted of the limited menu they offered; essentially Tibetan dumplings called momos, made by the wife of the Tulku (reincarnated bodhisattva) who still lives near the KTD monastery, North American seat of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa and I think the largest Karma Kagyu monastery in the New World. My musical friend Chimi, their daughter was about 5 at the time. Now, in addition to her musical chores she is translating and teaching Tibetan at her father’s new monastery KPL in Red Hook.

to be continued…