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Author: RW Klarin (page 1 of 4)

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!]

Ravi Shankar’s Magic Carpet of Passion and Youth

Pandit Ravi Shankar 2012

We work in the dark, we do what we can, we give what we have, our doubt is our passion, and passion is our task— the rest is the madness of art.-—Henry James

Most people are so busy knocking themselves out trying to do everything they think they should do, they never get around to do what they want to do.-—Kathleen Winsor

The familiar, high pitched voice welcomed the audience in his clipped Indian/English accent with self-effacing humility about how we may not recognize him now with his long white beard. At 91, he was thin and walked with a cane and assistance, but once seated in the familiar cross-legged posture with his hands wrapped around the sitar, he exuded passion and energy with skill undiminished by time. Then, weaving his spell with his sitar and the familiar sounding but unknown to this listener, ragas of India, the crowd of thousands instantly became still and silent.

A combination of concert, spiritual pilgrimage, and reunion of the tribe, the recital at Disney Hall in Los Angeles, seemed to be a miracle. Twice postponed, it stretched the mind that this unlikely musical avatar of the Sixties still played concerts. And played very well.

George Harrison studying sitar with Ravi

He and his ensemble sat on carpets that we magically rode to a place that crossed the veil into the timeless, the eternal, and the unity of life. In the Sixties, he opened a door to his world and with the support of his since passed friend, George Harrison, helped a generation to discover world music. Never compromising in his fealty for authentic, classical Indian music, he enthralled us with his devotion and humor. On the Concert for Bangladesh album, the crowd applauds early on and he says “I hope you enjoy the concert as much as you did the tuning.”

During this concert I kept having flashbacks to 1967 and his concert at the Hollywood Bowl that I attended as a teenager.  At that concert, patchouli incense and cannabis sweetened the air and the transcendent mood. At the new Disney Hall in downtown L.A. (minus the fragrances and supported by an ensemble half his age), Raviji was just as vital and relevant as then.

Ravi Shankar became more than a musician. That performance was more analogous to a saint or guru, but with no schtick (no hugs, no workshops, no obtuse philosophy), just his music. His depth of commitment to his art transcended the music. It exemplified the message of gurus, peace, harmony, and presence. He attracted an eclectic crowd with ample measures of old and young yogis in Indian prints, traditional dress suits and heels, and multi- generational Indian families dressed in saris and kurtas.

Ravi’s daughters: Anoushkar & Norah Jones

Ravi’s music attracts individuals who step beyond the mainstream and into one of the rich tributaries of world culture. Stronger than his music was Ravi’s powerful passion. Undimmed by age and now seasoned by 75 years of performing, the music explored the etheric realms. His joy was infectious as he egged his musicians and the audience to new heights. He clearly lived to share his music and that passion taught much about a life well lived. His silent gift was his devotion to craft and art.

Seeing, hearing, and experiencing Ravi Shankar reminded me of sharing one’s gift. It propels me now that I am in the last third of life, to uncover and then pursue an interest until it becomes a passion. A passion can become one’s life purpose and as in the case of Raviji, his passion was a benediction for the world. Overtly, Shankar played music but the covert gift is the experience of harmony, self-expression, peace, and unity.

A career counselor, Richard Leider, surveyed older adults to find out what makes them happy. He discovered that the prime factor is a sense of purpose and service in their lives. But many don’t know how they can contribute. Uncovering and pursuing gifts and interests later in life can be our service and legacy. A talent not developed may deprive others of a rich legacy. But even more problematic, we maybe denying ourselves of the fulfillment that comes from living with passion at 91 or 81 or 61.

I strive to drill down, discover, practice, and give away my gifts. Then, like Ravi Shankar, perhaps I’ll receive the boon of a life well-lived.

Inner Journey:

Dive into your memory to recall a former passion that you gave up many years ago. Did you get bored of it or did you quit in frustration or some other reason?

Action Steps:

If you were stumped on the above questions, try this for a few days: Before falling asleep, ask your unconscious to reveal a hidden passion.  Do it, and give it a fair chance, no less than ten weeks of regular practice or experience.


[Ed.s’ Note:  This, like other essays found in RW Klarin’s memoir/ self-help book—Living the Dream Deferred (2015)

brings many of us back to a time that is too interesting to forget.  I’m adding to this piece the advert for the 1967 concert RW mentions… it’s in our Musical Notes section.  Before going, consider doing  the Inner Journey and Action Steps.  They are like the books’ format and can help move you forward on your own mission. Or maybe you’ll want to do them as you listen to Ravi play at our LAFPMusic FB Page.]


In Search of the Sixties… in Amsterdam

Paradiso a Survivor of long ago era of exuberance, Amsterdam, 2017

Paradiso, Amsterdam, 1973

In search of hippie ghosts and youthful memories, I recently visited the Amsterdam music institution and concert venue—Paradiso. The front wall of this two hundred year-old building is plastered with dozens of concert posters. In the Sixties Paradiso was established as a multi-disciplinary center for the emerging the counterculture.  Fifty years on, not only surviving, but succeeding, Paradiso hosts two live music shows every evening.  Inside and out, it hasn’t changed much since my first visit in 1969.  The main room still reminds me of the Fillmore in San Francisco, open seating, balconies, and baroque architecture. Comfortable like old bell-bottom jeans, I felt at home. But this time, I stood out with my pony-tail hair, a stranger in a familiar land.

But ‘hippie’ was NOT forgotten this summer up and down California. In San Francisco swirling fluorescent colored posters and dozens of events celebrated the fifty-year anniversary of the ‘Summer of Love.’  High-brow museums like the De Young Museum in San Francisco and the UC Berkeley Art Museum packed in visitors who wanted to look back on that magical, almost mythical time, when Scott MacKenzie sang ‘Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.’ Written by John Phillips of the Mamas and Papas as a promotion for the Monterrey Pop Festival, a halcyon moment in the exploding youth culture, it branded San Francisco as the hippie city.  After Monterrey ‘hippie’ became firmly planted in the mass consciousness as a California thing. Apparently, it still is to this day.

Dam Square, Amsterdam, 2017

Riding a bicycle around Amsterdam this year, the countercultures’ European headquarters in the Sixties, I saw no posters of concerts promoting the old days, no museum exhibits, and even more surprising—no long haired guys. Institutions established in that era such as Paradiso and its’ associated visual arts venue, Milky Weg still flourish, but no recognition of the days of free concerts in Vondel Park and toking weed on Dam Square. My home in those days was H-22, located on one of the outer canals, where for $2 one could get a bed and breakfast.  Generosity prevailed in those days, for example, when I was robbed and lost my money and passport, they allowed me to earn my room and board until my traveler’s checks were replaced. Love was in the air, even the American Express office believed my story and immediately reimbursed the stolen checks, as did the American Consulate which issued a new passport.

So natural at the time, but now was it just a passing fad? A dream? Sometimes a nightmare? A watershed moment in history? Did Amsterdam’s hippie period fade into history like the Dutch East India Company, WW II and Mata Hari (a Dutch native)?  It felt that way in Amsterdam this year.  Perhaps it WAS a California thing, part of our American history but not important enough for Europeans. But in those days, European hippies were as prevalent and active as Americans. The political side of the generation dominated in Europe: In France, a general strike shutdown the country, the Provos in Amsterdam staged huge demonstrations, and Germany’s Red Army Faction captured and killed establishment leaders.

Former Concert Stage now child-care center, Vondel Park, 2017

I went to Europe this year to check-out what has changed since my first foray almost fifty years ago.  My personal quest was to revisit a thread of my life—European backpacking.  I and thousands of like-minded spirits,  members of the most wide-spread counter culture movement in world history, wandered all over Europe looking for adventure and fellow members of our tribe.  Variously known as hippie, new left, anti-establishment, freak, counterculture—our generation wanted to make a break from the slow progress of humankind.  In those days we were the future.  Now, I wondered if we were a footnote in the mist of  European history, with no  lasting legacy other than the  polarized political and social scene, global warming, and classic rock and the best place to look would be the epicenter of hippie in Europe.

During summer of 1969, while Americans were focused on the moon landing and Teddy Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick imbroglio, I and my close buddy Big Ed booked a charter flight from LAX to London with $500 in traveler’s checks, a youth hostel card, and a backpack filled with jeans (a valuable commodity in Europe in the sixties). Three months on the rails and hitchhiking led us to Amsterdam and an authentic hippie pad where we smoked hash, listened to Jefferson Airplane and found sartorial treasures (like the Dutch mailman’s wool cape I still own) in flea markets. With the summer adventure seared into my core memory, I returned home a committed member of the counterculture, whereas before I was just another suburban kid protesting the Vietnam War.

In those days all roads led to Amsterdam from LA, Berkeley, Boulder, Cambridge, Sydney, Cape Town, London, Berlin, Rome, youthful explorers were on the move. Still seeking adventure, what I found in Amsterdam this year saddened me. What I found were the skeletons of the past. On Dam Square, rather than young longhairs lounging around, tourists with designer shopping bags rested for a few minutes, while a team dressed in American football uniforms performed chants. Where the American Express office used to be is a McDonald’s. Even the erstwhile sex district, where prostitutes display themselves, has become a tourist attraction with couples of all ages gawking at the greatly diminished number of ‘working girls.’ Whereas in the seventies, one had to go to Kosmos and a few other select places, coffee shops where you can buy and consume cannabis are now sprinkled throughout the tourist zone.

Concert Stage, Vondel Park, 1973

Disoriented by images of the past and present, I bicycled to Vondel Park (the main park, near the center), where in the old days regular outdoor concerts drew hundreds of young people.  Now the concert band shell is occupied by a children’s arts program. Next stop was Paradiso, my window to the past.  The main room still reminds me of the Fillmore in San Francisco, open seating, balconies, and baroque architecture.

H-22 & RW Klarin, 2017

Somewhat mollified that my memories weren’t just fantasy, I  biked to an outlying canal, Herengracht, to see my home-base hostel in the old days—H-22.  A dormitory, the place provided a cheap place to stay with a cafeteria.  Generosity prevailed in those days, for example, when I was robbed and lost my money and passport, they allowed me to earn my room and board until my traveler’s checks were replaced. Love and community prevailed. Even the American Express office believed me and immediately reimbursed the stolen checks, as did the American Consulate which issued a new passport.  As I stared at the old hostel, which is now a school for disabled children, a young couple passed by. They took my photo and asked why this place? I told them the story concluding with the cliff-hanger of losing my stuff, and said, “And it all worked out.” The guy responded, “Yes, you’ve had a life.”

Amsterdam has mainstreamed part of our countercultural such as the music and hash, but overall like my own hometown of Venice, it has become a tourist magnet where ‘squares’ from Ohio or Prague or Simi Valley or Munich, feel comfortable to walk around and spend money.   Except for Paradiso and Milky Weg, Amsterdam could’ve been my neighborhood of Venice, CA with more canals. Cities once only available to the affluent few or the poor, adventurous youth like me, have become theme parks organized to extract tourist dollars.  With the spread of global consumerism and tourism, something precious has been lost in the places we ‘discovered’ back in the sixties/ seventies.

Soon after returning to LA, I discovered an old friend from the anti-establishment wars that has been reincarnated—The Los Angeles Free Press and my spirits lifted:   I’m not alone in honoring  and promoting the values and vision of the Sixties.  The seeds planted back then have not died.  In this highly stressful and polarized era,  the lessons, vision, and values of the Sixties have the potential to inform and inspire.  Resistance is not enough. Perhaps it is time  to re-member, to put back together the pieces of solidarity, peace, freedom, and love and again dream of a better world.

Them Changes

If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we are not really living. Growth demands a temporary surrender of security. —Gail Sheehy

We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results. —Herman Melville

The spirit of the original hippie days knocked on my door at a café on San Pablo Ave in Berkeley. While I sipped a dark roast coffee, I looked around a classic  21st century café, with organic, fair-traded coffee, a comfortable patio, retro-chic knick- knacks, and free wi-fi. An empty bottle of Lancer’s circa 1966 sits on a window sill. Surrounded by old stuff, the café evokes a calmer, simpler time. But for many Boomers, the 60s and 70s, didn’t feel simple and calm.

Back then the scent of cultural revolution was in the air. Our generation was going to be different, anti-Establishment values informed us back then. We wanted a change and we wanted it now. A prescient anthem was Dylan’s ‘Times They Are A Changin’ (1962). A tumultuous decade of protests resulted in some modest changes in the political sphere: the lowering of the voting age, end of the draft, more civil rights for women and ethnic and sexual minorities and the impeachment of Nixon. Buddy Miles reflected the stress of those times in his 1970 song, ‘Them Changes.’ In other areas stewardship of the environment, ending futile and pointless wars, and economic fairness, we failed miserably. In these measures we have left our children a country in worse shape than we found it.

One of the most enduring gifts from the Boomer generation is the music and its corollary, the freedom to self express. Our music presented a vision of an idealized time of peace, love, freedom, and harmony in a highly contentious time. We pointed the middle finger at our elders who were ‘square,’ ‘bigoted,’ and ‘uptight.’ All things Establishment were at the risk of our ire and idealism. It was in the lyrics of the songs, but also expressed in other forms— movies, clothes, hair and more. We considered ourselves different, the Now Generation who would set about making the world with peace and. love.  The high point came at Woodstock in the summer of 1969 and later in the year the shadow appeared at Altamont.  The naiveté of the times was shown in hiring the Hell’s Angels for security one of whom  was  accused of  stabbing and killing a young man while Mick Jagger sang, ‘Sympathy for the Devil.’ But many of us were dreamers and lived for freedom and love. Guided by John Lennon’s words in ‘Revolution,’ we sought to free minds instead of perpetrating violent revolution.   The Sixties cry for freedom resonates within most people, especially Americans. Looking back we can see that the ‘liberals’ weren’t liberal enough for many impatient youth. Resistance to the Democratic party’s political dominance prompted the rise of the underground press, the most prominent of which was the Los Angeles Free Press.

Following that spirit of youth and freedom, we aspired to build a new society, but we failed. Our nation took a drastic turn to the right. Since Reagan’s arms build-up that resulted in the implosion of the Soviet Union, we have been on a constant war footing. Coupled with excessive deregulation, anti-union policies, and tax breaks for the 1%, we now live with extreme natural disasters, climate change, increasing gap between the rich and the rest of us, self-righteous religious zealots, and never ending preemptive wars of aggression. It is no wonder that the youth of today look to our music for inspiration. We had great ideas and slogans and made a lasting, if limited impact on the political system as well as lifestyles.  Some argue that the rise of Trumpism began as a reaction to the idealistic New Left of the Sixties.

In the 70’s our generation’s revolution subsided, but had lasting impact on lifestyles (think meditation, yoga, health foods) like others before it. The majority took the road most traveled, the one most traveled.  The by-product of that conformity produced the fruit of climate change and tribalism infecting our body politic today. Nevertheless, we Boomers have continued through the power of our numbers in the marketplace and the voting booth to express our views loudly. However, despite positive trends, such as expansion of gender and sexual equity, organic food, yoga, and electric cars, society has lost ground on key quality of life indicators, obesity, traffic, economic security, bigotry, and personal privacy.

At a talk in Hawaii in 2011, renowned researcher on the science of human consciousness, Peter Russell, was asked if he had hope for the human race given its extreme challenges. His answer, “I don’t know. I hope so, but I don’t see the evidence for it.” As I sat in that room of 100 Boomers and a handful of 21st-century yogis/hippies, I realized that a positive plus of aging is to be knowledgeable and appreciative, of one’s past ideals.

Can we reconnect with our youthful vision of equal rights, economic justice, environmental sustainability, and the end of futile wars? But firstly, we need an honest inventory of our successes and failures. That recollection may be infused with regret or longing, but within the group memory is the power of community. Our generation once had hope, vision, and purpose. We can make a difference again. We now have the age and resources that come with it: time, economic freedom, knowledge, and mobility. Let’s leave a positive legacy. To paraphrase Peter Fonda in Easy Rider, ‘Let’s not blow it again.’

Inner Journey:

What do you miss from your youth? From your middle age (30–60)? What were your ideals in youth?

Action Steps: 

Pick one social issue that inspires your interest. How can you make a difference with your actions? Now do something concrete to address it.

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