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Tag: RW Klarin (page 1 of 2)

Taylor Camp: Free Expression in Community


Diane’s house by John Wehrheim

“The great challenge of adulthood is holding on to your idealism after you lose your innocence.” —Bruce Springsteen
If we keep our little flame alive, our first feeling of enthusiasm of who we are, without the influence or intervention of others, we will prevail.” —Patti Smith

One morning I walked into my local, non-corporate coffeehouse, deep in thought, fully intending to hunker down and work on my book. A mix of millennials and Boomers were hunched over their laptops doing status updates. Then I saw a friend focusing on his project in the prime window space. After I settled into a spot in the other room, this character came over. The conversation led to the Big Question, and my recent apostasy from a 25 year church membership pushed into that unresolvable riddle: The meaning of life, of my life and the world. We are similar in age and like me, he has forged a new mission after a traditional job/career. He works daily on a mathematical formula that explains the laws of the universe. We engaged in an hour-long conversation on his theories. Then I asked him point blank, “Joe, what is your purpose in writing this paper?” He flubbed around and finally said, “I need to do it.”

Believing that there are no accidents and each path offers value if we can see it, I realized that our conversation led to my dominant question those days: “How do we find meaning in life and sustain a vision, after we have experienced fifty or sixty years and the inevitable disappointments and reality checks?” The topic had been taunting me for a couple weeks. It rose to the surface again a few weeks later, when the manager of a B & B in Maui where I was staying mentioned a recent documentary film about Taylor Camp, a ‘back to nature’ commune in Kauai, Hawaii in the ’70’s. Memories of my first time in Hawaii came forward, it was a time when the hippie culture’s idealism offered quick solutions to life’s basic issues of work, community, war and freedom were sought at Taylor Camp.

In 1976, I accidentally found Taylor Camp while driving around Kauai in a rented camper with my girlfriend. We had escaped to paradise. In love and free of jobs, school, and home—we found heaven on earth. One day a young guy of my tribe knocked on the door of the camper and offered to sell some marijuana. Ahh… total satisfaction. I bought a bag and he invited me to the camp that evening.

The communards welcomed us to their feast and celebration, even though we were complete strangers. We were of the ‘tribe’—young people looking for an alternative to the disillusion and hypocrisy of the post-hippie, post-Vietnam 1970’s America. They shared home-grown dinner, lilikoi and vodka punch, and cannabis (or as we used to say ‘grass’). The evening evolved into a big campfire celebration complete with singing, guitar playing, and drumming. Always a documenter, I made an audio recording of the free-form sing-along, and drum circle. When it ended, I purchased a large quantity of their home grown herbal products. I played that cassette once at home, but then it disappeared forever. Unfortunately, I also lost/forgot that joyous night of spontaneous celebration of life and community.

Fast forward about 35 years to the B & B on Maui. The proprietor’s comment woke up something in me, like a zombie, I opened the doors to this recovered memory. Slowly, I stumbled on an understanding of what my young spirit could teach me for this time of life. Today, I am as free as I was at 25, perhaps freer because the economics of the next month or year or decade are handled. I reflected on that moment at Taylor Camp and felt a deep, hidden yearning I have carried all these years. On the surface it may be seen as nostalgia for youthful freedom from responsibility or perhaps the urge for community or belonging. But for me, it also represented a call to adventure of the unknown, the fresh, the novel and the uninhibited.

Many threads weave through this long-ago experience but for me they all point to the ultimate question, the one that most people have at some time in their lives and the one that my mathematician friend at the coffeehouse is tackling. What is this life all about? How can I revive my sense of purpose in life? And how do I ride its roller-coaster?

The answer is always personal. Eventually, we form our own opinions and solutions to the Question.  It may be in religion, work, pleasure, or family. After sixty, it seems more pressing since the above ‘have tos’ are eliminated and the time left is more limited. My mathematician friend asserted he finds meaning when “the inner self no long feels separate from its experience.” A moment in time at Taylor Camp back in the day was like a floodlight shining on a glimpse of meaning for me . . . free expression in community.

Inner Journey: 

Recall a time when you happened upon a fun and exciting event. Did you jump in and participate? Or did you leave?

What is your opinion about living simply in community? Does it repel or attract?

Action Steps:

Retrace your ‘lost’ youth, and go to a place where you experienced a lot of fun, community, and expression.

[Ed.s’ Note:  RW Klarin’s memoir/ self-help book—Living the Dream Deferred (2015)

is wide ranging as he visits (and, in many cases, re-visits) places and people that were part of an era that is too important to forget – enjoy his journey!]

John Phillips – Remembers Ravi…


John Phillips, Rock Musician remembers Ravi’s sense of simple joy in 1967

“The afternoon concert [at Monterey Pop Festival] belonged largely to Ravi Shankar and his hypnotic, meditative ragas. …
Ravi gave one of the most remarkable performances I have ever witnessed. Within the past year, the exotic sitar sound had wafted into the mainstream of rock. I had visited Ravi at his family’s home in L.A. and discussed paying him for his music school in Delhi. I met his wife, his sisters, and their children. They were the most gentle people. We ate curried dishes with our fingers. Incense burned throughout the simple, modest house in the Hollywood Flat. It was unpretentious and suburban and about fourteen people lived in it.
When Ravi visited 783 [Bel Air Road], we stayed up and cut some demos of us jamming together. Ravi exuded a simple joy when playing and he seemed blessed by supernatural stamina and discipline.”

from Papa John: A Music Legend’s Shattering Journey Through Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll, by John Phillips (Dolphin Books/Doubleday, 1986)
Provided by Dana Cook, Contributor to the Los Angeles Free Press.
RW Klarins’ ‘Remembrance’ of Ravi is Ravi Shankar’s Magic Carpet of Passion and Youth

Ravi -Shankar, 7 April 1920 – 11 December 2012

Ravi Shankar * Ali Akbar Headline Festival From India


Way before RW Klarin became an LA FP Reporter,  he was a regular on the LA Concert Circuit – watching the artists on stage who would, 50 or so years laters, be celebrated as Icons of the Era. He, himself, remembers this particular concert in his ‘remembrance’ of Ravi Shankar. It was a memory brought about by his present-day visit to a concert by Ravi at the  Dorothy Chandler Pavillion.  Curiously, Ravi might have his own memory from way back when…

Deena Metzger’s Tree is Still Free


 

A throng of young protesters wearing masks and wielding clubs attack ‘conservatives’ at a rally at UC Berkeley, the home of the original free speech movement. Back in the Governor Ronnie Reagan days, the attackers would have been the ‘Blue Meanies’ as we students nicknamed them in the Sixties.  But now these opponents of speech pose as progressives and claim to be ‘anti-fa;’ (for anti-fascist) protesters who claim lineage to the fully exposed demonstrators of over fifty-years ago. Mario Savio must be spinning his grave.

What has happened to the left? What would the anti-fa do if an Allen Ginsberg look alike pulled one of his anti-establishment rants at a rally protesting conservatives? Would they accuse him of sexual harassment for micro-aggression for his unconventional stunts like disrobing at a poetry reading? Would the words in his seminal poem, Howl, like ‘cock’ and ‘pussy’ offend? What about the frequent speeches like those by ‘Jesus freaks’ on the plaza in the 70s?

Who are these people? Are they FBI undercover agents seeking to disrupt legitimate complaints about conservative positions? That did happen back in the day, and given the level of surveillance and the authoritarian nature of the Establishment today, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were.  But on its face, it is not inclusive.  Authoritarian and intolerant, its’ posturing is antithetical to the values and ideals of the New Left of fifty years ago.

In 1970, I knew a Black Panther and attended a  Panther meeting with him. At that meeting at a coffee house in San Francisco, a lively discussion explored the likelihood of FBI agent provocateurs in the group. By that time, J. Edgar had almost no inhibition in his war against the radical movement.  He planted undercover agents in radical groups around the country in addition to inciting violence at anti-war demonstrations.   And it worked. Discredited by faux radicals and overwhelmed by Establishment newspapers maligning the New Left, the movement disintegrated into squabbling factions like Weather Underground and the SLA.  Fortunately, underground newspapers like the Los Angeles Free  Press and the Berkeley Barb exposed this undermining of progressive politics.

A period of exhilaration occurred when President Richard Nixon was driven from office.   His misdeeds combined with J. Edgar Hoover’s disregard for the constitution validated the radicals suspicion of persecution.  After the Freedom of Information Act was passed, evidence of the government’s harassment of the left was exposed.  In the 1976 presidential primaries, Jerry Brown’s populist campaign and forward thinking ideas reaped the scorn of liberals because he didn’t conform to Establishment dogma. Instead, a mild-mannered but non-innovative peanut farmer, Jimmy Carter, was elected. His moderate policies were easily exploited by the former movie actor and governor who blamed the country’s ills on Berkeley radicals. Seduced by the smiley face of Reagan and his cowboyism, a weary public caved to repression stronger than ever. Most of the radicals cut our hair, got graduate degrees, and/ or built fortunes. In other words, we were coopted.

RW and Deena Metzger at her reading at the Topanga Public Library, October 217

A few weeks ago, I finally had the opportunity to meet a local Los Angeles hero of free speech—Deena Metzger. Ms. Metzger was a cause celebre’ at Los Angeles Valley College in 1969.  I was a sophomore and anti-Establishment.  At this suburban community college, her cause became our local version of the free speech movement .  Deena Metzger went on to be a prolific novelist, writing teacher, and shamanic healer. But in 1970, she made the front page of the Los Angeles Free Press after she was dismissed from her teaching job for “immoral conduct.”  To illustrate censorship, she wrote and used in class a sexually graphic poem, Jehovah’s Child.  The Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees voted to terminate her.  According to Ms. Metzger, the only vote against her dismissal was from newly elected trustee and later four-time governor Jerry Brown. True to the ‘cheap’ reputation he later earned as a higher office holder in California, Brown’s reason was that it would be fiscally irresponsible, Metzger said.*

Free Speech Plaza, LA Valley College, 2016

The scandal was a big sensation at the college. Demonstrations were held in the quad, later renamed Free Speech Plaza, supporting Metzger. Detailed stories were published in the LA Free Press, along with fragmented reports in the campus newspaper. The importance of free speech was brought home for me in the Metzger incident, but I had not met her until just last month. It was during my weekly writing session at the Café Mimosa in Topanga Canyon, that I noticed a flyer announcing a reading by Deena Metzger. A  cycle had come full circle and right on time. The time was ripe for a  glance back, the familiar issue—free speech, is back. Finally, I got to meet Deena Metzger, especially satisfying now as a reporter for the LA Free Press.

Like visiting a relative after many years absence, I felt like I was returning to a familiar person, and wanted to present myself as successful in life. Kind of like an accounting: What have I done? Did I stay true to the values? I’d never met her, but for me she represented that era’s hope and possibility for one’s self and society. I wasn’t disappointed. Remembrance of that old story added reality to my youthful memories.

A soft-spoken woman, with an earth mother quality accented by her many scarves and rings, Deena Metzger conveyed a grounded power. Still radical, her focus is now on the natural world and the pressing need to take care of our world. Comprised mostly of women from her long-running writing group, the audience seemed to absorb more than the words but also her essence. She spoke from experience within herself and the world.

Like a time-warp in that library room, I remembered how exhilarating those times of pushing the socially condoned boundaries felt as a 20 year old college student. After the talk, I bought one of her books and told her my story. She inscribed, “Many blessings for our shared history.” Meeting Deena contributed to my resolution of that long ago era of freedom when it was our zeitgeist. My soul felt freer knowing one of LA’s vanguard in free speech is unbent.

The soul of the Sixties still lives, grows, and teaches with Deena Metzger. Freedom is just that and the real heroes of freedom like Deena put their careers on the line and showed their faces. Metzger stands as an icon of the rich Los Angeles and Topanga iconoclastic history.  And real progressives are those who show their faces.

*In 1969, I was fired from a tenured teaching post at a local community college for reading to my students a poem I had written on censorship and pornography.  The case soon became an occasion for the advocates of censorship to organize themselves against the students’ right to  know and the teacher’s right to teach.  After three years, I was restored to  my position by the California State Supreme Court.

From Deena Metzger’s Writing  for Your Life.   1992

Inner Journey:

Imagine your  life at 20.  What did you believe in?  What did you strive for?  Who were your  academic heroes?

Action Steps:

Did you sustain those values through the decades?  Perhaps you can revisit one of those inspirational individuals and renew and act on that principle.

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