Sunday, May 01, 2016


All Is Vanity by C. Allan Gilbert

Leonard Cohen

It (and All) is Vanity I suppose.
Here are a few pieces of Vanity.
They are my brushes with greatness and some name-dropping.
First, a short preamble of ramble.

I've had the good fortune to meet some interesting non-great (i.e. non-famous) persons in my life.
I have also been quite fortunate not to have died in the many scenes of my life where I have played a part and encountered:
A few peak experiences.

After I had gone to college for four years, I finally picked my major (I had been a distributed studies major...well, really just a lost liberal arts major).
If my philosophy professor Dr. Weir had not been walking down the steps of the university's library just as I was coming up them, I might not have become a teacher.
With his pure white beard, Dr. Weir glided down the stone steps with his usual nonchalant manner and inquired:
"What are you going to do?"
"What do you mean?", I asked.
Professor Weir replied,
"What are you going to do when you graduate?"
"I don't know", I said.
"Why don't you get paid to read books?"
And so in my fifth year I loaded up on Education and English courses.

Now to some name-dropping and brushes with greatness.

I met Anais Nin.
She was an aging but still beautiful woman when I met her.
She was dressed completely in white.
Either way she seemed a goddess in my eyes.
I had read her Diaries.
I told her that I had had a dream with her in it.
I think she said something like "I hope it was a good dream."

I went on a date with a girl named Joan Bliss to listen to Allen Ginsberg read his poems (and play his little harmonium).
When he was finished I walked with Joan Bliss to say hello to him.
I extended my hand to shake Mr. Ginsberg's hand, but he kissed it instead.
That was an embarrassing brush with greatness.

I got hit on my right knee with John Prine's guitar when he walked by me on his way to the stage.
That brush didn't hurt my knee.
That same year I went to hear Leonard Cohen in the same small nightclub.
He didn't hit my knee, but I still felt that I had been brushed by some greatness.

At a concert in Denver I bought one red rose for Bob Dylan.
I gave it (in its vase) to the person who accepted such things to forward to Mr. Dylan.
When I handed this person the rose (with a card) I asked,
"Will he be sure to get this?"
And I was assured that he would.
Years later Dylan's Shot Of Love album came out.
On the back cover is a photograph of Dylan smelling a rose.
My rose?
Not quite a brush;
not quite a bouquet;
just one red rose.

I actually met Allen Ginsberg three times.
Once while walking down Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado.
I wrote about this encounter and a publication called The Straight Creek Journal published it.
I have tried to locate my letter in archives without success. Maybe when I'm famous others will do it. In the letter I wrote how I was treated by this (in my humble opinion) not so great poet.
He accused me of having scrambled brains and of being just one more hungry fish who wanted his poetry to be recognized (and famous I guess) like Mr. Ginsberg's.
The other encounter was more mundane.
I had him sign a couple of his paperbacks. 


Friday, April 22, 2016

Happy Earth Day!


"We only have one earth, so we need to take care of her."
That's what Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin believed. He was disturbed that an issue as important as our environment was not addressed in politics or by the media, so he created the first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970. An estimated 20 million people nationwide attended festivities that day. It was a truly astonishing grassroots explosion, leading eventually to national legislation such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.

I remember that first Earth Day.
I was living in Boulder, Colorado.
The most salient memory is of the many Geodesic Domes.
All of those triangles interconnected!
The dream-come-true of any hippie!
A couple of years later, when I was living alone in a quiet one-room "cottage" along Boulder Creek, I had an experience that truly put me in touch with the Earth.
It was a frosty white winter evening.
I was driving my Datsun truck and saw two people asking for a ride (their thumbs extended).
I stopped and asked where they needed to go.
They pointed ahead and said "Sugarloaf Road".
"Get in", I said.
His wife's name was Heidi. I forget his. But I won't forget his huge, red beard that was almost down to his knees.
When I stopped, they invited me to visit their home.
We walked through the snow-laden forest for about quarter of a mile.
"It's over there", said the long-bearded husband.
"Where?", I asked.
"That round circle on the ground", Heidi replied.
Her husband lifted a "door" and they invited me to come in.
Inside this hole dug into the earth was their home.
It was Z-shaped.
A small mattress sat on the top part of the Z. I sat here.
A treadle sewing machine was at the bottom of the Z.
"We put a Tepee on top when winter ends", Heidi said.
Then Heidi's husband showed me a round object covered with colorful "strings".
The strings were copper wires.
The round object was a small bicycle wheel.
"What is it?, I asked.
"It's this", he said.
And he handed me a small metal box.
"It's a bio-feedback machine".
I stared in disbelief at both objects.
"My company is called Psionics", he said.
It was the very first biofeedback machine. I felt honored.
I didn't stay long.
Heidi and her husband walked with me part way down the path from their home.
I was walking back to my truck astonished, when out of the cold blue evening sky a bolt of lightning struck just a few feet in front of me.
This thunderbolt out of Heaven was as remarkable as that meeting in the Earth.


Thursday, April 21, 2016


Kelly Ripa is mad at Michael Strahan.

Kim Jong Un is (always) mad at the United States.

Russia is mad (again) at the United States and vice versa.

Saudi Arabia is going to be mad if the missing pages from the 9/11 report are released.

Donald Trump is mad.


But may Prince Rest in Peace.


Sunday, April 17, 2016


Washington, D.C.
The Jefferson and Lincoln Memorial.
The Washington Monument.
And Sibley Hospital.
I was told by an accompanying psychiatrist and the Peace Corps nurse that I would be here only for observation.
That sounded ominous to me, but I smiled my acknowledgement (certainly not my approval.)
I signed some papers (I guess to give permission to everyone to do anything that they wanted or had to do to me).
I said goodbye to the nurse and Mr. Psychiatrist.
In London he had asked me to tell him what some riddles meant to me: A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss; People Who Live In Glass Houses Shouldn't Throw Stones; and others I forget).
I don't know if I gave him the correct answers.
But apparently not.
I "checked in" at Sibley.
I was on the Ninth Floor, which is (I guess) the traditional floor on which psychiatric patients stay.
I sat down in a room with a jolly fellow named Sarge.
He asked:
"Why are you here."
I said that I didn't know.
Sarge said:
"You'll be out of here in no time."
I soaked in a bath, and then took a shower.
I was on one side of the ninth floor where IN/OUT patients had rooms.
On the other side were patients who were too dangerous to have permission to leave their side of the floor or to leave the hospital.
Remember the movie One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest with Jack Nicholson?
I did the same thing that Jack did: I pretended to swallow my medication, but then threw it down the toilet.
My medication was called Thorazine and it made me feel terrible.
So I stopped taking it.
But that didn't stop the public announcements TO COME AND TAKE YOUR MEDICATION.
I met some interesting people.
I met a relative of William Faulkner (a niece I think).
Then there was a lawyer employed by the U.S. government.
He said that his insurance paid for him to come here, and he came to meet and talk to interesting people. He said it was like a vacation for him.
One of my neighbors had tried to commit suicide.
I never asked why.
I believe her name was Karen Johnson.
She told me that she had just interviewed the actor Robert Blake for Playboy magazine.
She and I went on a walk one day.
We were planning to go see the movie Coma, but we never made it.
We got lost.
We did stop for a brief visit at the national headquarters of N.O.R.M.L. (National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws).
The director asked me if I wanted some herbal tea (no...not that kind), but I said no.
She walked to the back with the director.
As I looked out the big window of the office, I watched as a plainclothes policeman took out a police dog from the back of his truck.
They didn't come into the office.
Karen and I finally left, and returned to the hospital.
Another time I took a walk with a very sweet elderly woman.
I think she told me the same thing as the lawyer: she came here to relax!
It was hard to believe!
She told me that Michael Fox lived next to her.
Not Michael J. Fox.
This Michael Fox wrote books about cats.
Anyway, I went with her to a restaurant.
I remember that I ordered a Reuben sandwhich and some kind of mixed drink.
When we finished our lunch, she had to go somewhere else, and so I caught a bus to return to Sibley.
I remember that the Denver Broncos were playing in the SuperBowl (1978).
A radio on the bus had the game on.
Suddenly, I felt horribly sick, and needed to get off of the bus.
I asked the bus driver to stop because I was about to throw up.
He did, and I immediately did so in some bushes.
I was quickly released from Sibley Hospital when I started turning yellow from the Hepatitis that I had.
If you ever want to get out of a psychiatric ward quickly just get hepatitis.
I went to my mother's home to recover from my Hepatitis and to gain some weight from her home cooking.
But I liked my 32'' waist so much that I didn't want to eat too well.
One day I visited a friend in a hospital.
But she was in the hospital to have her appendix removed.
In her room the TV was on and at a low volume, but I could still hear Walter Cronkite say in his indelible voice:
"Today President Daud, president of Afghanistan, was killed..."
Mr. Cronkite also announced the suicide of Freddy Prince.
It was Afghanistan's first coup which made Russia feel it was necessary to intervene and invade.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Photo by Lennart Nilsson

Photo by Lennart Nilsson

Opossum's opposable thumb on rear foot

thumb (n.) Look up thumb at
O.E. ├żuma, from W.Gmc. *thumon- (cf. O.Fris. thuma, O.S., O.H.G. thumo, Ger. Daumen, Du. duim "thumb," O.N. ├żumall "thumb of a glove"), lit. "the stout or thick (finger)," from PIE *tum- "swell" (cf. L. tumere "to swell," tumidus "swollen;" Avestan tuma "fat;" see thigh). For spelling with -b (attested from late 13c.), see limb.

To be under (someone's) thumb "be totally controlled by that person" is recorded from 1580s. Thumbs up (1887) and thumbs down (1906) were said to be from expressions of approval or the opposite in ancient amphitheaters, especially gladiator shows, where the gesture decided whether a defeated combatant was spared or slain. But the Roman gesture was merely one of hiding the thumb in the hand or extending it. Perhaps the modern gesture is from the usual coachmen's way of greeting while the hands are occupied with the reins.


The thumb.

Where would we be without it?

What could we have done without it?

We would not have been able to build our bridges, make our bombs....or paint our paintings!

(Yes, I know people can paint with their mouths and feet)

Our fingers would not have done as much walking without our thumbs.

(I'm just pulling your thumb on this one)

Jimi Hendrix would not have been able to play his psychedelic licks.

It’s amazing that as embryonic fish we humans became so handsome and beautiful---so wicked or good---and developed our opposable thumbs to boot.

Imagine all of the things that could not be done without thumbs.

I am using my right thumb as I type to hit the space bar.

I could do this with my index finger, but it would be less  convenient.

Other things that could not be done without our thumbs:















Please write me---with or without your thumbs---and tell me more about the goodly uses of our humble thumbs.


Sunday, April 10, 2016


The Light at the End of the Tunnel by C.P. Storm

I kept walking.
I didn't sleep.
I didn't eat.
I was worried that I was going to get rabies.
I kept walking.
Then I got on a bus.
I didn't know where it was going, but I didn't know where I was going either, so it didn't seem to matter.
About five miles later I saw a small hospital.
I decided I would get off here.
I walked into the hospital.
I entered a waiting area.
Then I left it and walked down a hall, looking into rooms.
I entered one room and saw a green chalk board with some words that I remembered seeing once when I had visited a friend's house in Boulder.
It was a quotation that the Ananda Marga Yoga Society kept as a part of its philosophy and indoctrination.
My friend's house was like "headquarters" or a branch of the Ananda Marga Yoga Society.
The sister of my friend's wife had just returned from India, and she mentioned how the Indian 
FBI were looking for Ananda Marga members, because it was a forbidden organization in India.
A doctor walked into the room.
He saw me staring at the green chalkboard.
He turned on a very bright light and shined it into my face.
He said something.
Maybe he knew I knew what the words meant.
I didn't stay to find out, but bolted out of the room, and ran down the hallway, and went outside.
Paranoia! Panic! Fear!
I didn't want anyone to know my identity, and so I tore up my passport and got rid of it. I clearly wasn't in my right mind, and I knew it, but it was hard to not be there.
It was a hot day.
I continued walking.


Thursday, April 07, 2016


I boarded a train.
I had no idea where it was going, but in my mind I thought it might get me to Sri Lanka.
The train was old and moved slowly.
It was a hot and bumpy ride.
I was sitting next to man who said that he worked for the government.
Becoming nostalgic for America, I asked him if he knew who Johhny Carson was, but he shook his head "No".
Then I saw a shiny metal box that triggered a paranoiac reaction.
I said to myself "Bomb".
I had to get off of the train before it exploded.
I walked to an open door of the train car that I was riding in and looked out.
I said to myself:
"I will jump when I see a lot of green", knowing that when I jumped I wanted to land on something soft.
The train had just gone by a field of tall and bright-yellow mustard plants when Isaw the green.
I jumped.
I hit the ground and rolled.
The impact smashed the round, gold-rimmed glasses I was wearing, and I was left now only with my dark sunglasses; but luckily they were prescription lens...otherwise I would have been a blindman because I am both so near and far-sighted.
I brushed myself off and was thankful that I wasn't hurt.
It was getting dark and cooler.
It also started raining.
I looked around for shelter.
I saw a tall mound of hay, and thought it might protect me.
I went to it and sat down, pulling hay over me, but the hay didn't stop the rain or shelter me from it.
But it was only a light rain, and then it stopped.
Up ahead was a light.
It was a small wooden enclosure with two Indian men inside.
They offered me tea.
They wanted to know who I was.
What was my name?
I shrugged and pretended that I didn't understand.
One of them pulled out a map of the world.
I pointed to South America, and started speaking some Spanish.
I didn't want them to know that I was an American.
I wasn't sure that India (or at least these men) liked Americans much.
They shook their heads some more.
I drank my tea and left.
It was getting late, and I was now very tired.
I saw a canopied wooden bin that was filled with corn meal.
I stepped inside it, covered myelf with the corn meal, and went to sleep.
When I woke up the next morning I couldn't find my dark sunglasses.
I got out of my warm bed and started protesting to people around me.
I was waving my arms and pointing to my face, and holding an imaginary pair of glasses to my face.
Then I held the proxy frames up to the sun.
Finally, one person pointed in the direction of a fenced building (it was a factory of some sort).
I walked to the fence, and as I was walking, a sheperd with a stick was guiding his "flock" of pigs down the road.
It was quite a sight to see the little pigs obediently following him.
I got to the fence.
Someone came out and handed me my sunglasses.
I was very relieved to get them back.
Below is a poem that I wrote about this part of my adventure.

I walked & walked until my shoes fell off.
When I saw green I jumped off the old train.
When I hit the ground & rolled over I was
Surprised I was alive.
I had bruises.
I walked into a medical clinic.
They said I
Was ok & so I left.
I had on my dark sunglasses, mysterious-looking dark stranger,
The sky got gray, the night got
It started to rain.
I climbed onto a Haystack to cover myself with straw (it was a lousy idea)
So I climbed into a small grain bin with a little roof & covered
Myself with corn meal
So warm & cozy
I had on my dark sunglasses.
I slept.
I woke up.
It was a sunny morning.
My dark sunglasses
Were gone.
Men were staring down at me
As I climbed out of that warm corn meal heaven
Someone handed me my sunglasses.
I was so relieved.
I could see again.
I started
My feet bled.