Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on February 21, 2014

Recently I was writing an article on my life as an entrepreneur, a career that almost by definition carries with it a certain amount of isolation, if not downright loneliness, at least it has for me. It's a risky business, taking chances. And I asked myself how this ever came about.

The obvious answer is that I dropped out of high school and hit the road, an act that immediately isolated me from society in many ways. It was like throwing down the gauntlet and serving notice that I was not about to just go along. The odd thing is that by nature my first inclination is to try to fit in and be accepted. Like most of us, I just want to be happy and be loved. It is only when I find myself somehow excluded that I begin to take chances. And there was that long time, early-on, when I did as little as possible. This is about that.

There was a period from my late teens until I was 30 years old (at least ten years!) when I dedicated myself to doing more or less just nothing. By that I mean I worked as little as possible. Sure, I helped to found and managed a band, learned astrology, studied Black music like crazy, read many hundreds of classics, hitchhiked all over, and lots of other stuff, but that was mostly fun. What I tried to do as little as possible was work a straight job. I am no different today, but these days I work all the time anyway, just because I love to.

But back in the 1960s, that's how it was for me, work the least amount of time possible, and use every other moment just to consider my options. I did little or nothing for years accept to make sure that I had lots and lots of time on my hands to just hang out. Somehow I needed that much time to get ready for life. I was a late bloomer.

And I had what I considered a great job, cleaning the men's and woman's bathrooms at 215 S. State Street in Ann Arbor where I grew up. The building had six stores in it: Circle Books, Saturn, Little Things, Middle Earth, a hair salon, and a mod-clothing shop by the name of Paraphernalia. I was very fast at cleaning toilets and mopping floors. I could be in and out in less than half an hour and, aside from a trip or so to the city dump each week to drop off the trash, I had 23 1/2 hours a day to do as I pleased, and I did exactly that.

And even with all that, I still didn't have enough time to really fully relax and let my mind rest. That takes years! It is true that part of my anxiety was wrapped up in trying to find the love of my life. She, whoever she might be, was always on my mind at some level. Where was she? Why was she late? Did she even exist? I am not the Lone Ranger in that department; some of you have probably been in the same boat, right? Meanwhile, I had friends all over town, but still managed to be lonely.

Of course my particular search for love goes way back, all the way to around 8th grade when my family lived on Washtenaw Avenue, way out where it intersects Arlington, not too far from where Whole Foods is today. So I either hitched into town or walked a couple of miles to get there. And once in town, I have memories from those early years of walking the Ann Arbor streets on those crisp fall and winter nights, wearing only a light a jacket. I walked the empty sidewalks way out State Street near Granger Avenue ro where some school friends lived. I would walk at a brisk pace, probably smoking Chesterfields at the time, with the smoke and the warmth of my breath filling the night air. There is something about smoking and the sharp cold, coupled with the taste of nicotine that I still remember.

When I dropped out of high school and had traveled a bit, I moved out of my parent's home at 305 Wildwood on the west side. My four younger brothers I am sure appreciated taking over my room because space there was precious. In the beginning I only had one tiny room at 335 Packard Street, right across from Krazy Jim's, the joint where they made those great Blimpy Burgers. I didn't spend much time in that room. Later on, when I lived at 114 N. Division with a bunch of people for many years, I had a larger room and a narrow hallway all my own, I spent a lot more time there.

Otherwise I was always somewhere else, in the early years hanging at the Michigan Student Union (MUG), and later at places like Mark's Coffee House or at Circle Bookstore where I worked doing astrology charts and teaching classes. And "hanging out" for me meant hours spent nursing a cup of coffee and/or either reading or shooting the shit with friends.

And walking… I was always walking everywhere and almost always alone. Where was I going? As Chuck Berry sang, I had "… no particular place to go," just anywhere, out there walking by myself, or with my white English Bull Terrier Manley. He was the first being I ever felt fully responsible for.

And I read. Probably because I never finished high school, I wanted to make sure I didn't miss anything, so I read, and read and read and read. I probably read more European authors than American, at least in the beginning. That was the result of rubbing shoulders with the Beats. They were all about Europe, and about darkness, and down. I was trying to follow them down, despite not feeling particularly dark. I tried my best to be like them.

And early on I also tried very hard to be an Existentialist. I read it all; I breathed in Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Camus, Sartre, most of Hegel, and all of Dostoevsky, 50+ novels. I even took Russian at school! And of course: Thomas Mann, Rilke, Kafka, Alain-Fornier, Goethe, and on and on. I had already read all of the Beats: Kerouac, and writers like Ginsberg, Snyder, Whalen, McClure, Rexroth, etc. – the whole lot.

I also worked hard on my ennui, on my Weltschmerz -- world sorrow. That was in the very early 1960s, before The Sixties movement took hold. Later on, I gradually admitted to myself that in fact my life was not that down, but just the opposite. I loved life and was much more of an enthusiast than I was morose. Enough of the darkness; The Sixties and Hippies were all about the sun, light, and dancing. I gradually joined that choir.

I guess what I really was doing all those many years was monitoring my mind and psyche, years spent observing my own internal behavior and trying to draw some conclusions. Well, I wasn't quite ready for conclusions; I had only just begun, so that would be a long wait. I also had seen a lot from LSD trips on the couple of times that it really had kicked in, and it took me at least ten years to stabilize my mind and make sense out of what I saw. As they say, LSD was an eye-opener.

So I did all kinds of things with my time, but behind all of that there was always this preoccupation, an event in waiting, that kept me bound to Ann Arbor and those lonely sidewalks. At heart I was looking and waiting for whatever woman was destined for me. At heart I have always been a romantic. I was certain there had to be one woman out there somewhere who would love me just as I am and I her. It was just that I had not found her yet.

Don't get the wrong idea. It was not like I was destitute of female companionship. As a musician and eligible man-about-town, I had plenty of opportunity, and even met some wonderful women, but unfortunately none that clicked with me like I always imagined they should. In fact I was thirty-years old before I finally found Margaret and she me. We clicked and were married three months later. 2014 will be our 43rd wedding anniversary.

And a lot of this back then was about not wanting to force myself to do something I did not feel like doing. This has been a terrible problem for me all my life, not wanting to be pushed into anything, except by interest and love. It has made making money very difficult.

So I pretty much spent those ten years trying to get my mind and attitude right, setting my sails so they would take the winds of change life brings and not capsize. Another way of phrasing this is that I was learning to use my intuition and not just my intellect, as in: follow your heart. I did just that.

And following my intuition involved taking a chance on life and that it was not somehow suicidal to do what my intuition felt like doing. But back then that chance seemed like a long shot, that things would somehow work out. However, all of the threats that society could level at me, in the last analysis, went unheeded. I couldn't care, because I just could not do it any other way. I had tried doing what I did not feel like doing and it didn't work. "In for a nickel, in for a dime" was my attitude. I just didn't fit in.

I am reminded of a story someone told (I would credit them if I knew their name) of watching a line of cats walking across a farmyard all in a row (head to tail) with their heads and tails raised high. And at the end of the line (and not far behind) was one skunk (tail also raised high) trying for all its worth to just fit in and march along. Well, I was that skunk, but I didn’t know it then, and hoped against hope it was not so. It was. Ultimately we have no choice in these kinds of matters. If we don’t shape life, it shapes us.

[Self-portrait I did, back in the 1960s.]