Loves and Life

June 4th, 2017

Loves and Life


Life is not all work, however.  Being single meant going out — to bars, to parties, to the park — whenever the urge overtook me.  It also meant making friends.

At Penneys, I was not alone in being young, single, and struggling with adjusting to a new life.  Most of the copywriters were male, and we made a close group.  I was part of a set who went out to the park every day, weather permitting; we’d often spend lunchtime at the zoo, where one of the favorite activities was to go to the monkey house at the zoo to watch the mandril masturbate (he ate it).  Most of those guys were not gay, though I did have a brief (hourly) affair with one guy.  But I felt free there to act as outrageously as I wanted — mostly by wearing the flashiest clothes I could afford, and by letting myself act a bit swishy; we ‘creative types’ were expected to be of a different sort.

Since  my office was in mid-town on 56th street and Sixth Avenue, I could walk to work in the mornings, going down from the Rambles across Central Park West from my apartment at 7 West 73rd Street, through the Sheep Meadow and down a winding pathway to the top of 6th Ave.  Many lunchtimes I spent walking over to 5th Avenue, through Rockefeller Center, or dropping into St. Thomas Episcopal Church, whose quiet and graceful sanctuary was a place to rest and think quietly.   I tok out a membership in the Museum of Modern Art, just around the corner on 57th.  Carnegie Hall was just around the corner, and Times Square was an easy walk.

Some time in the first year,  I met Buck Buchanan, a movie reviewer for Motion Picture Daily, a trade paper for the movie industry.  (You may think of Hollywood as the place for movies, but the financing all happened in New York.)   Buck and I hit it off right away; he was gay, but had a lover who was jealous, so Buck didn’t approach me on that level, which meant I was free to keep playing the field while using Buck as a listening post for my exploits.

As Buck was another writer, we started writing film scripts together. Many an evening we’d  get together at a bar nearby on 6th Ave in the ground floor of Rockefeller Center.  The bar was called Hurley’s but we called it Surly’s after the waiters’ attitude.

After a number of false starts, we finally produced an outline for a script that we thought was worth working more on.  After at least two years, that outline developed into a script we thought might go somewhere.  Buck, being in the biz, shopped the script around.  It ended up being read by Anthony Perkins, who was starring in a Broadway musical at the time; we went to his dressing room at the theater one evening, where we discussed the script and possibilities of his starring in the film (he would have been perfect for the part), but nothing came of it in the end.  I got discouraged (I was always easily discouraged) after that, and didn’t keep trying to  write for films.


A southern boy, Frank was two years older and a lot wilder than me, but he was a lot of fun to be with, even if he drank too much.  He moved into  my  apartment with me on East Sixth Street, on the south side of Thomkins Square Park in the East Village.  It was a small apartment, a large studio, but on the top floor of a five-story elevated building, with an expansive window overlooking the park and the Manhattan skyline to the north, the Empire State Building being the highlight of the view.

The neighborhood of the East Village was for me enchanting, but for Frank, maybe not so much.  To the west, on Avenue A, was a Ukrainian neighborhood of mostly-elderly Ukranian immigrants, while to the west on Avenue C was a mixed Puerto Rican – Cuban neighborhood, beyond which were mostly black public housing blocks.  To the south on East 6th street was McSorley’s Ale House with it’s peanut-shell-littered floor, as well as the Hell’s Angels headquarters.  It was a neighborhood.of great variety.


Sean was about my age.  I moved into his apartment on Second Avenue at 17th Street.  It was a small apartment, one bedroom, pullman kitchen.  To keep from going mad, I decorated the bathroom, started cooking, and opened up a brick wall with fireplace.  The fireplace had a concrete cap over the chimney, which I removed with my little electric drill.  Quite illegal, but who was to stop me?  Sometimes when we had a fire going, the tenants in the apartment upstairs had a distinct odor of ‘something’ burning.


I stayed with Sean for 18 months.


A friend had an apartment in the West Village, which he wanted out of; I payed him “key” money of $500 and moved in.  The address was perfect: 7 Gay Street.  Small, but nifty: wide plank floors, on the ground floor, with two working fireplaces, shallow but comfy.  You had to overlook winoes who sat on the sidewalk just below the front windows — the apartment was on the ground floor, right next to the front door to the building.  I think the apartment might have been a doctor’s or dentist’s office back in the mid-19th Century.

One day my writing partner, Buck, showed up at the apartment door.  With him was one of the most beautiful young men I had ever seen.  Ruben was a couple of years younger than me, he was slim, my height, of Puerto Rican descent, with a huge afro and a brilliant smile on his face.

Ruben moved in with me as soon as I could talk him into it.  We slept together on a bed in the front room, a narrow bed, smaller than “twin” size.  The two of us were a friendly fit.  We had been introduced by Buck because I had expressed a desire to buy some dope — marijuana,, in the parlance of the day — and Ruben had a connection, and I had the money.  Our relationship grew far beyond this business.  I may have been in love with Ruben from the moment we met, but the more I got to know Ruben, the more my love grew.  Ruben was not only good-looking and street-smart, he was intelligent-smart; although not well educated formally, he was extremely bright, a quick learner and open to new experiences.   Ruben wasn’t a big reader, and when I was reading he would sit near me, doing ‘nothing’ as far as I could tell then; just sort of staring into space; but I came later to see that he was really meditating — not in a formal way, but that’s what he was doing.


We did do some drugs, but not the ‘hard’ kind of drugs — in fact, what we did was pot and acid.  We developed a circle of friends, who would come over to our house; Ruben was astute, and when anyone seemed about to be entering a bad trip, Ruben was aware and able to talk him round do a good mood again.

I lived with Ruben for two years, the two best years from that period of my life.  We had good times — a trip to Puerto Rico to visit his mother in Ponce, and a stay in a commune in the jungle mountains there; a trip to Vermont; many, many acid trips — and some not-so-good times, such as getting arrested on a beach and spending three days in the Nassau County Jail, on Long Island.  We both became macrobitic.  Which led me to meditation, which led me to thinking more and more about what I was doing with my life, which led to the great mistake of thinking I needed to be away from Ruben, my great love.  So I sent him away.

For a while, I lived with Barbara Grober, (not her real name) — who had, strangely, been Ruben’s friend.  I had not had intimate relations with a woman before, but we got along well for a while; Barbara actually at one point invited me home (Albany, NY) to meet her parents.  I am sure now that she was much more serious about our relationship than I was.  Marriage was the last thing on my mind.

No, what was on my mind was going to Boston to study macrobiotics with Michio Kushi.  A friend, Don, who had once been a reporter for the NY Post (the Post at that time was a real newspaper, before purchase by the right-wing Australian), was running a macrobiotic newspaper, the East-West Journal, for Michio Kushi’s group; I distributed it in New York for a while, and finally moved to Boston to work with Ron.

Macrobiotics is all about balance, specifically the balance between Yin and Yang, between the expansive and contractive forces of the universe.  This balance was to be achieved through simplification of life, primarily through diet.  The idea being that once in balance, meditation would be the natural state of the person.

To accomplish this, I lived in a macrobiotic study house; all meals were prepared for us, we worked in macrobiotic businesses, for the most part, such as Erewhon Natural Foods, and attending evening lectures by Michio.

I worked at the newspaper for a while, and then managed the macrobiotic bookstore, Tao Books,  I somehow came to be the owner of a step-van, and with two other residents of the study house formed a part-time moving company (lots of call for local movers in a college town like Boston) which brought in some money to supplement our meager salaries.

[What living with Michio was like]

Guru Maharaj Ji

Tao Books, as you might have guessed, carried books on macrobiotics and also on a wide variety of “spiritual” pursuits.   So I met lots of people from many different meditation and religious pursuits, enough so that I started publishing a free monthly newspaper on relevant topics, with essays on meditation, announcements of meetings, and interviews.  This was all on my own dime — I didn’t want any advertising; I’d take donations, but those were exceeding rare. I laid it you after having type set, drove forty miles to the printers, and distributed it.

Which is how I met Guru Maharaj Ji (the name means “the honorable great king and teacher,” or close to it).  Guruji was at that time 16 years old; he had been hailed as Master upon the death of his father (who went by the same title), and was in the United States on a tour arranged mostly by his mother, Mata Ji.  I went to several meetings (satsangs), and what they were saying seemed to make sense, and so I got initiated (called “getting knowledge”).

I was duly impressed, and devoted one whole issue of my newspaper to my experience.  Mata Ji was shown that issue, and she right away decided I was to be an information officer for the organization, Divine Light Mission.  That led to my being invited to travel to India for three months.

India was an amazing experience.  I stayed in ashrams in New Delhi (in the Punjabi Bagh neighborhood) and then in Pren Nagar, an ashram in Hardwar, a town to the north, not too far from the border with Nepal.  The town was on the Ganges, in which we westerners bathed daily (cold! water, straight from the source in the Himalayas).  The town itself was no little village but a booming tourist destination.  It centered on the complex of temples clustered around the ghats, steps leading down into the swift-moving waters of the Ganges.  In the ashram, I slept usually on the roof, a blanket over me and beneath me, and would wake up to the sound of morning puja being performed at dawn, as the sun rose over the Himalayas.  It was a magical place.

After India I w,as a loss as to what to do, and ended up back at my parents’ house in Des Plaines.  I started holding meditation and satsang meetings at the house, which my  parents thought were quite strange, but they did not object.  I started looking for work again, and finally landed a job offer writing advertising for a manufacturer; but by the time that offer came through, I was already in Denver, having been called there by the Divine Light Mission to run the organization’s newspaper, the Divine Times.




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