Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Chapter 3: Cockroaches, the Taj and how to be a drug smuggler (I probably shouldn't say that)

Take this little journey as a break from the taxing captivation of politics.  We all need one.  Everything else is still happening.

CHAPTER 3

Day to day life in the ashram was like living in the best commune ever.  It was a very spiritual environment, well that's what ashrams are, it's not a vacation, sort of... and spirituality is more central to life in India than anywhere else. At least at that time it was. Celibate, vegetarian, no discrimination between the sexes (I do not lie!) and a kindness to each other that was a norm I miss today. And modesty, how I miss that in the United States. We seem to have very little awareness, nor the significance, of modesty anymore.  Just go outside.  And if you ever go to India, bring it with you, it's the least you can do for them.

We were only about a quarter of a mile from the banks of the Ganges. A stroll in the morning or the early evening would lead you to a little embankment where you could squat to bathe or wash clothes. Outside bathing was the only way to get clean, whenever you remembered to do that. It is always done fully clothed, two things for the price of one. However, that didn't stop young Indian men from riding their bikes on the other side of the river and yelling "vagina, penis!" It was laughable and you just shooed them away, they were harmless.  Although that is not the case in cities. In cities you must always watch out for the wandering hand and not so innocent appraisal. It is the same now as it was then.
                                                                           

                                                                            
In between daily life and daily life, we took trips, some were just a few of us, see the post of Dec. 24th (links? how do people do that?) and some were en masse, yes, 400 people.  That takes a train. And train travel in India is very different from train travel anywhere else.
                                                                                
 

                                                                             
I remember hanging out the open door like that and thinking, "This is the best way to travel by train. Why doesn't every one do this?".  I still think that.  I HATE the way you can't even open a window on a train anymore, it's all piped in air like a plane, it makes my head hurt. But was exhilarating, even when the coal smoke made your face black with a layer of soot.  Bars across windows, no glass, so if the soot didn't get you at the door, it was eventually going to find you. Little stations like this are much more crowded than what you see in the picture, they are chaotic and noisy and the smell of them is intoxicating. There are vendors walking around with big baskets on their heads selling samosas, a deep fried triangular shaped snack filled with spicy potatoes. No Indian restaurant in America comes close. And when you are there, they become addictive. India's comfort food. Chai, made with buffalo milk at little stands on the side of the road, warm samosas and the other worldly smell of bananas. I would go back just for those, if I could. They could sustain me for the rest of my life.

The trains are fun during the day, but freezing cold at night. At night you sleep sitting up, if you are lucky, if not you lay on the floor and take your life in your hands. First you may get stepped on by someone scurrying to the bathroom, a hole in the floor, thankfully with a door. It is the strangest feeling of vertigo watching your pee fly over train tracks at about 50 mph. And if you don't get stepped on, then you will probably encounter face to face the largest cockroaches in the world.  I remember looking down on the floor one night, not able to sleep ( tiny, very dim light bulbs in the ceiling, icy night wind and a hard slatted wooden bench) and with bulging eyes, grabbed my seatmates arm because I saw a mouse.  No, no, no...a cockroach the size of a sizeable mouse, a mama mouse, a pregnant mama mouse.  It was like a scurrying attack creature and I didn't want to know where it was going. All of a sudden I was very, very grateful for the chivalry of some sweet guy asleep on the floor, some guys can sleep anywhere, and hoping he would never know what had just climbed him, like a little mountain, on it's way to someone else.
                                                                             
My dear friend Robert, waiting for the next train. This was taken in Delhi in 1970. His stories of India were a lot of the reason I was so eager to go. I'm so glad I saved this picture, he was a wonderful guy and I hope he is still living a happy life.

Dehradun, Patna and Agra were three of our destinations, Agra of course, being the most memorable. There were only about 30 people at the Taj that day, including myself and 4 friends. I remember thinking, when inside that middle part of the building, how small it felt. I threw my arms out and twirled around and around on the marble floor with the wind blowing in through windows that had never known glass and feeling the cool morning breeze.  A turbaned guard tsk,tsk, tsked me. Not becoming behavior for such a sacred place. But sacred behavior for a young free girl.                                                     
                                                                            
Some time in the late afternoon, two other girls and I snuck into one of the towers in the red mosque laughing and trying to smoke a joint, strictly forbidden. Rebel is just a given part of all young people, no matter what they tell you.  The match would not light, we took that as a message not to taunt the Gods, they were watching. But that doesn't last long and that evening we all went to a tiny, dark cafe, with a couple of NY boys eager for a little of the grit of India. There was a thick blue haze in the room and people were smoking hash and drinking goats milk with a ball of it in the bottom of the glass.  It felt so sinister and the hazed looks in the eyes of the men, all of these places are only for men, on the the faces and bodies of white women who didn't belong there was enough to push you right back out the door. Fast.
                                                                         
This is the view that was most enchanting to me. I saw a scene very much like this from a window of a train/bus? crossing the Ganges as we were leaving that evening. It is the back of the Taj on the banks of the Jamuna river. There is a very relieving quietness everywhere in India at twilight and the fishermen in their boats heading home brought a gentle reminder of the real lives of India. The lives that Shah Jahan ruled, and probably as most rulers, never understood or even saw.

Not long after these mind blowing/cleansing/revelation filled journeys, it was time to start winding this thing up. We had just enough money to get our asses to Delhi and a cheap hostel.
At that time, hostels were bare cement rooms, more like a prison cell, with cots, two to a cot and a bucket out back that was always overflowing.

What happens next in Delhi; when your stolen ticket isn't any good anymore and carrying drugs out of the country just seems like a nice thing to do for your friend.

The drug thing in the title wasn't just a tease to get you in here...but I think it might have worked a little...  I just didn't realize how much incredible shit happened between there and then. It is still shocking to me what happened in Delhi.  But then maybe not, given that this is India we are talking about here.
                                                                     


The ending is worth waiting for......






Monday, July 25, 2016

The wind is blowing the birds around and I broke my toe..toes

I forgot my camera.
I'm at the beach
I broke two toes in the first 45 minutes
They don't have real clams
It took me an hour to get the laptop to do what I wanted it to
The weather is perfect, patches of sunshine followed by patches of relieving overcastedness
The ocean is loud and smells sweet and clean and clean
I got my pants wet walking in the cold biting fierce surf and watched the bravest dog in the whole wide world fight through the waves for his most beloved friend
a yellow tennis ball
I have the biggest umbrella in the whole wide world and it took good care of me
when the wind blew me down, the glorious wind clean clean with it's sweet smell
I want to lay on the sand and watch the stars and fall asleep to the quite roar of the god
water
I'm never going home I'm going to live right here in the water on the sand watching stars
until my bones and my soul heal

Friday, July 22, 2016

Exactly what I look like after a long day of shelling


Just checking in to let you know that I have been working a lot in the studio but I am also working on Chapter Three of the "Journey to Heaven" and I will be able to post soon....please don't go away.

This is me after I have glued on 7,482 shells.   I even dream about them.

                                                                           

                       Francesca Woodman, American photographer, gone too soon.


                                                                                         

                                            And the journey shall continue. 
 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Part two...The criminal journey of the stupidest girl on the planet who finally lands in heaven

Thanks for staying tuned to this channel! We now resume our journey.

Ow, ow, ow, I just want to stick this in here because I just found it on Google. It's the living room of that cottage in that Hollywood Hills enclave that I told you about, last chapter.  My head might be in there....  You could only jam about 60 people in there, jam, summer time, you get the idea.  Seriously!, now that I look closer I am sure! that that is my head in the lower right hand corner! My hair was browner than I initially remembered it.  But I do...truly...remember turning around when someone was taking a picture.  And there couldn't have been very many of them taken at that time.  Me...look! Amazing!!  That is the ONLY photo taken of me in that whole time on that incredible trip!
                                                                     



My Guru, as I said, was taking 400 followers back to India with him and if you remember I was not going on that flight, but that one that left about a week later, the illicit and criminal one. (chapter one)  End of August, beginning of September. Dates are fuzzy, a lot of things are fuzzy. There was some smokin' goin' on.....

My illicit flying companions and I went to the airport before their plane left to bid them bon voyage and to join in the festivities of something that was unprecedented for that time. It got a lot of press because I think this was pretty much the beginning of the whole spiritual leader/follower thing.  400 people essentially renting a plane and traipsing after a holy man/kid? 1/2 way around the world.  Yeah, that'll hit the news!
Everybody was gathered around him on his makeshift "throne"..there was always a throne, a whole lota' thrones,  and he was taking questions and just sort of playing the whole thing to the hilt.  After a few rounds, I, unbelievably shy little me, raised my hand and asked a question. Sometimes you get a bolt of something and out it comes. I said, don't laugh, "master, may I have your grace?" That saying has become a touchstone in my life.  Grace was the foundation of the whole thing and it still serves me well.  I'm a bit flippant about all this, but in truth, a lot of it "woke me up" in a  primal way so there is a core of real spiritual growth as a result of all this.

Anyway, he looked at me, slightly smiled and actually poked his right hand Indian companion (they were call Mahatma's) in the arm and they both turned to me and with what seemed to me, an expression like you would give to a child asking an obvious question.  He said, Yes! No matter who he was or what was actually going on here, that was it, one tiny little word and I then never had one single doubt that this trip would be anything but safe and I would be taken care of every step of the way.  And that's the way it was.

                                                 click them for larger..you knew that

This is unbelievable: this journey was taken with one pair of colorfully patched bell bottom jeans, one pair of linen pull-string pants, the blue turtle neck sweater from the Swing Club job, two very hippy tapestry tops, a pair of those little red, embroidered Chinese slippers and a pair of camel suede wedges. That's it!   I didn't own a bra, but I think I must have had underwear...?                                                        

That is how I boarded this plain and took my 1st class seat.  No one blinked an eye.  Rich hippies were doing all kinds of wacky things in those days, spending daddies money, and I think that's the only time in my life when I was mistaken for someone of that ilk, and oddly, in tattered clothes!

Side note:         Think what you may, and you may think this is time to get off the train, but both I and M at one point turned to look out the window over the ocean of clouds ...and saw him.....both of us, sitting on a cloud floating along with the plane.  He smiled, big time, and waved. Of course we waved back, silly. We kept looking away, no,no it's not...no, no! Look out the window again...still t h e r e, cue spooky music or more appropriately - Led Zeppelin Stairway to Heaven.  God, I wish I knew how to embed Youtube videos...but go there, right now, it's so appropriate!
And just so you can think I am a little more wacky than you already do...I've had 4 of this type of experiences in my lifetime...it could happen!
                                                                         


                                                                          
In the picture on right, note bar on lower level in the center of the picture and the winding stairs to top. This is what white glove service was in those days: full menu breakfast, lunch and dinner, some of it cooked in situ, there was a station just behind the bar.  French pastry trays, chocolate and champagne upon arrival, full bar with bar tender, up and downstairs both, seats into warm and comfy beds, warm washcloth's. I could see myself living there. Only one exasperated looked from the stew., we were probably acting like idiots.

                                                                             
All I remember of being in the second story lounge (that's were that winding stairs came in) was spinning around and around in those chairs with a cocktail in my just turned twenty (so I was only as mature as a 16 year old) hand and being so gaga I couldn't stop giggling.

There was a month layover, intentionally planned (you can have it any way you want it with a "lifted" ticket) in London. I could go all through that but it's too long, except to say that now I know what a dale is and that M, my flying companion, lost her sleeping bag so I shared my, single!, sleeping bag with her for 4 months...!  The only saving grace was that she was even smaller than me and didn't snore. Somehow we remained friends through the whole thing...gawd!

Landing, and the wall hits you...the scent of India! Cow/people shit, food! (banana's, they smell and taste totally different there) garbage, incense and that separate unidentifiable, all embracing and exotic scent that is the essence of India. It smelled like home, that's the only way I can describe it, I felt like I had come home. We had to hire a "taxi" (100 mile an hr. tin can) and try to find our way to the camp ground where we would be staying for a week.
400 people divided between two tents. A sea of sleeping bags that looked like a colorful patchwork quilt. No room to walk between them. Quiet and clean and, miraculously, stayed that way. Huge pit latrines with two 5ft. lengths of board for standing or squatting. Never fell in once, folks. Another miracle.
                                                                       
Hard to tell in that photo, but those were the tents, someone got a photo and put up on Google. For about a week we sat in the blazing sun, on the ground listening to Satsang, look it up. The only thing I specifically remember (I wish I could remember the food - that would be fun), was that on an early evening in the midst of that sea of people, (it wasn't just 400 Americans, it was thousands of Indians too)  I turned and saw Baba Ram Das, author of the bible of spiritual hippydom, standing to the side.  My eye had caught him because he was the only person standing. I then got up to go over to talk to him, what the fuck was I thinking? but he was like a magnet I couldn't resist. The people around me yanked me back down because it was taboo to get up when there was a speaker so I never got to ask him, "just how the heck are you doing with the whole acid, LA, India thing?" I'm sure he would have loved to engage........!

Finally, on to the ashram in Hardwar, Prem Nagar, a two story sort of but not really falling down pink elephant (nothing to do with that other pinky guy), which would become my new home for 4 months.  Yippie!
                                                                      
No glass in any of those window. Eyes stung by mosquitoes first week there, so swollen they could not be opened for three days.  I had to be guided to the latrine..again, good times!
                                                                         

  Today - breaks my heart that all the sweetness and simplicity of that time is gone. Life moves on. 
"Catered" meals on banana leafs - slap it down.  I never got sick, until the end where we spent two days in a western style hotel eating "American" food.   Never do that!

We spent, about 4 friends and I,  most of our time in the small, charming places with about a 5 mile radius (big adventures!) like this
                                                                         



this next one is vintage, but it is so much like it was then. Things had not begun to change yet in India, I don't think I would recognize it anymore.
                                     
We just saw typical everyday life there. We weren't interested in all the big tourist places so I did not even know this existed until a few years ago.
                                                                               

It is Ganga Aarti, where people go to bathe in a special ceremony. This kind of thing was not my India.  This was                                          
and you got to these little places by walking down these quiet roads that lead to chaos. The lovely chaos.
*

                               

And I am so glad I got to be there at that time. You can still find places like this but they are so overtaken by tourist's now. I guess it's like they say - "you can never go home".


                             
                                                                            
                          
OK, that's enough. Next chapter: The cockroach train, the Taj and smuggling drugs     !!!


Liv





*all these photos were taken from the web, no copyright infringement is intended 




Friday, July 8, 2016

The Glorious, Crazy Journey of a Stupid, Crazy Girl on an Airplane Bound for Heaven

I have nothing to do today - that I want to do, but I have plenty that I could do. And as I am not going to do any of them, this is what I am doing.

I'm not the kind of person, obviously, who writes about my wonderful family and all the interesting things we did today (they don't exist) and I am not the kind of person who writes about all the awful/good things that have happened in the world in the last day, week, month - although I am aware (sometimes) and responsive in my own way. In other words, I am a nice person.

I am the kind of person who writes about feelings, random thoughts, momentary experiences and the past. I think. I could be wrong, I never go back and read my posts. There are certain parts of the past that were really, really ok and I think about them often to give myself the reminder that my whole life has not in fact been shit.

                                                                      

I said a while back that I would write about my trip to India..which is fascinating. It's fun too, think of it as a kind of mini movie. I may divide it into two parts as it is so good that I don't want to leave out any little tidbits. And I am a very long winded creature and sometimes a story must be that. And I will preface this by saying that every single detail is the god's honest truth, except for the parts in which I get the chronological order mixed up...but are still true.
                                                                          

I drove to LA ('71) with two hippy/happy friends in a nonstop weed infused trip to meet that 13 year old Guru..you know, the one that got written about often in up/down/in/out ways for several years back then.  A little boy who taught me more about life than I have been able to put together in all these ensuing years and may in fact have saved my very fucked up life. We stayed with him in one of those tiny little cottages up the winding stairs that were the only way to get to them (those sweet little things that are now worth millions) down the hill from the Hollywood sign.  I wish I could remember the name of that little area, but alas. Thy are tres chic now... taken over by movie stars, or so they are called.
                                                                           

We three friends then moved to a one bedroom apt. in North Hollywood, when the little Guru went back to India,   -  which was a trip made often back and forth by the money from bigger people  -   above a woman who shouted all day and into the night but sometimes gave us muffins.  Other than those, we lived on Dr. Bronner's chips (why don't they make them anymore?? I could still live off those things!!) and popcorn dusted with Dr. Bronner's herb powder and fruit salad.  Good times.
                                                                        

I was absolutely penny less. I had the brains of a squash and had no idea how to take care of myself. With the help of one of the people who lived in the apt., and they shall remain nameless except to say....one was a Lodi and one was a Hilton... (no, not the Paris Hilton type, the other one) , I got a job at a swing club..yes! (you know what those are right?, now they're called wife swapping, how fucked up can you get?)..as the coat check girl (who wore coats in LA, I don't know?) and I had the added very important responsibility of cleaning the ladies room.  Which was so packed with star wannabe's and coke and vomit/piss, wads and wads of wet paper towels on the floor that I usually just gave up and walked out. (I was always getting in trouble for that! Amongst their stiletto heels and ratted up do's I was barely noticeable. Like a dwarf maple tree in a forest. These otherworldly women did their "thang" as I darted between them, wary that I was going to get smacked in the eye with a coke crazy elbow.   It was said that Dyan Cannon owned part of the club but I never saw her...it made me feel kind of in the "in" crowd....hahaha-- as I sat in my little booth with my tiny picture of my Guru beside me, wearing my only normal piece of clothing, (that means something not made out of an old nightgown - which I thought made me look kind of sexy and holy at the same time) a dark blue knit turtle neck sweater. I thought it looked really good with my long blond hair (rarely combed). I was only propositioned once by a portly, bald headed actor, I would kill to remember his name, you would be shocked.

Aren't back stories fun?!
                                                                             

Those were the days when you could fly between LA and San Francisco on what was called "the red eye". It was about a one hour flight that left every night at midnight...red eye, get it?
And it cost $10.00, yes $10.00! Someone would sell a pound of pot and we would all share the riches. We practically wore out those seats. Mind you, the plane only held about 8 people. Can you imagine, an hour long flight for 8 people for $80?!  In those years there was a kind of underground hippy network where people were connected like a family sending out info about places to stay, where to get cheap food and of course, the best pot.
I and, as I remember, two other friends of mine  - not the Hilton or the Lodi, - god I miss them - stayed in one of the "painted ladies" across from Alamo Square park. For free ! I had no idea in those days, well, about anything. I seemed to take it for granted that this sort of thing was just...I don't know, it just was. I had my first avocado sandwich with gamasio, on a stool at a counter in a little tiny restaurant in Haight Ashbury and I was in heaven, I couldn't get enough of it. I so annoyed the waiter behind that counter asking for more that I knew he wanted to throw me out.
                                                                             

One of those bleary nights on that bumpity little plane, I heard a friend,  G.  (that special friend that I maybe really loved and he maybe really loved me, that I told you about in a previous post),  say that you could go to India for $100....?!!  Our Guru had arranged for a Jumbo Jet to fly all 400 or so followers of his back to India with him, for a considerably large fee, I think it was $500.  These kind of things, (ok, call it a cult, I don't care) usually attract people from the "leisure class" in other words, people who don't need to work and can just afford to wander around the world...leisurely.  G came from one of those families, Beverly Hills, London homes. A beautiful boy/man with a poor man's heart and soul. Someone who makes you think that the world is sweet and all is well.  (God!! Remind me to tell you about the crazy thing that happened when I met his parents in London at a swanky hotel - I can't, nobody could,  remember the name after so many years! ) It is hysterical! And involves shock and awe....
                                                                         

Anyway, G was one of those people who saw everything on the same level, all even, one no different, all the same, everyone worthy, all a part of one. It was and still is rare in that moneyed world. When we got to the Frisco' house I asked for the "what?" of that $100 thing and this is how it went.  Someone there knew someone who worked for a printing company that printed the blank tickets for airlines. That someone knew a travel agent.  These were the days of no computers, or at least so very few that they were uncommon and confusing. These tickets needed to be filled out by hand. The printer and the travel agent would do this for $100, split $50 each.  I remember standing there in the kitchen of that painted lady with a blue skied view of the city, next to the most beautiful, tall blond, blue eyed, gracefully gay boy/man you ever saw in your life, David O.  I remember looking at him with my unmascared, big brown eyes and just being incredulous that this could be.  What was happening was that the ticket agent was asking me how I wanted to go...coach, first class?  I was so fucking without a clue, that I nonchalantly snorted a little and said "first class", like it was no big deal.  I'm not even sure I knew what first class was! The reason that I was able to do this was because G had given me $100.  He knew I didn't have a vast sum like that...! and he wanted me to go. There is something telling in that.
                                                                          

We lost touch about a year later and I would give a lot to be able to see him and return that $100 that he handed me, a gift that gave me, possibly, the best experience, best memory of my life.                                                                            
There were six of us that bought those tickets. Two of us, Mary A. (that photo below comes as close as I will ever get to seeing her again) and I on one plane and the other 400 on another.  I'll tell you now, that only one person, so sadly, got caught - coming home.  I never found out what happened to him but I know that I never even considered that I would be found out. I just thought "gee, this is fun!!" I think that naive people are sometimes protected by that naivety. They are so innocent that they do not spark even a moment of doubt in themselves or others. Or they could just be stupid. 
                                                                            

Chapter Two: The criminal journey of the stupidest girl on the planet on a jumbo 747 on the way to India.
Stay tuned.  

Liv xo