"The greatest man in the world has recently died. His name was Gurdjieff”
Frank Lloyd Wright
Malibu 1977. Shopping for an "esoteric school" is not like going
to the grocery store. More care should be applied to finding what you need. Reckless romantic that I am, caution was thrown
to the wind in my new found goal. It didn't take long to find a bookmark in one of the "work books", as they're called by
insiders, and I was effervescent to find a "Center" in Malibu. I called and spoke with a mysterious sounding person, adding
fuel to the imaginary fire. There was a "prospective student meeting" that night. Several hours later, I arrived at an inconspicuous
home, scared out of my wits. I never met people involved in "secret schools". All I knew was that everyone there knew something
I didn't know. The question was, "Is it something I want? ". A small stage loomed in front where an attractive, commanding
woman with red hair led. Her name was Helga Barth. Two others sat on either side, all austere. It felt like walking into a
library with your zipper undone, spinach in your teeth and squeaky shoes. I was never to lose that feeling, no matter how
"high up" the evolutionary ladder I climbed. An invisible hierarchy of ego is easily mistaken for wisdom.
The basic ideas of the "system" were relayed; man is a machine,
comprised of not one "I" but "many I’s".
As a result, we are all machines, asleep at the wheel.
To confound the problem, we imagine we're "awake". It is precisely this illusion which keeps us from actually "awakening"
to our true condition and evolving out of it. The only way out is to become conscious, united within, with a permanent "I".
As it is, each "I" rules the moment, and to keep the illusion in place, our name doesn't change, providing a sense of unity.
Buffers, like those used to cushion railway cars, keep us from seeing ourselves. We compartmentalize our lives and often have
no idea that we are doing something contradictory. A rageaholic says, "You'll never meet a nicer guy", and continues to be
the only person who doesn't know he's a prick. I met "straight" and married men who would have sex while drunk, then not remember
or would justify by saying, "Oh, I was drunk!", if confronted. None of this was new, but there was a dramatic urgency to their
delivery. The most unforgettable moment was when Susan rose and placed a bowl of fruit on her head. Walking across the stage
she said, "We don't remember ourselves. We only remember memorable moments" She was right. We broke for intermission.
Robert Burton's "school" was called the Fellowship of Friends, now referred to as APOLLO.
Didn't that missile explode in space?
Outside on the patio, smoking up a storm, laughing, and telling
stories was the female version of "Jobba the Hut". She looked like Phyllis Diller in drag with enormous bedroom eyes
shadowed bright blue, pink lipstick and a "wrap" like a feather boa. This lady held court. Scared, shy and awestruck, I sat
nearby to soak in some wisdom. Her name is Stella Wirk. She and her husband, Harold, were two of the first "students" in the
school, run by Robert Burton.
I didn't know it then, but they would become lifelong friends,
in and out of the school. Though she has passed, her irreverent way of teaching can never be for-gotten or replaced. That
meeting was 29 years ago. Harold's impish humor and ability to poke fun at anything and everything remains intact. An accomplished
artist, he paints murals, draws character sketches and creates hilarious "cartoons" with three precious dogs in Reno, Nevada.
We remain in contact to this day.
Stella conveyed deep wisdom through humor. I learned more from
sitting at her "round tables" shrouded in cigarette smoke, than I did from the "Teacher". Oh, don't get me wrong; he's quite
an imposing figure, and my contacts with him were all "interesting". However, there's more to this story, some of it covered
with scandal like a filet mignon smothered in sauteed mushrooms. It felt like I was "auditioning" for entrance into an exclusive
club. Prospective students were required to attend 3 meetings before they could join. At that time, entry would be discussed
and payments, which were not optional, could commence. Getting in was easy. It was getting out that was a bitch!
Of course, I joined. I drove to as many meetings in Malibu as possible, two or three per week. A blank page, a sponge soaking
up every detail, I couldn't get enough. My "addictive personality" had found a new home in an "esoteric school". The
school's private ranch is located in Oregon House. I was shown the ropes and told I could go up there on weekends to be around
the Teacher, and to work, a principle of payment. Slave labor is more like it. Imagine thousands of people around the globe
who PAY to donate their time and energy by working on a ranch. What a racket. Hats off to anyone who can compel others to
do so, and the Teacher was quite successful. In fact, he had high powered lawyers, physicians and a Wine Consultant leading
the construction of a winery, now finished. The main house was called the Lincoln Lodge. Today the school is called "Renaissance".
However, it wouldn't surprise me to discover it had been renamed, "Garden of Eden". The Teacher, of course, was God...the
ONLY God; aren't they all?
My first visit was unforgettable. We arrived very late in the
morning, about 2:00 a.m. Excitement mounted as we turned onto the property. Mysterious energies seemed to hover in the air.
I was taken into the Lodge, and told I could sleep "wherever I could find a space". Dozens of sleeping bags littered the floor
so I cautiously crept upstairs, stepping over a couple of bodies. The heater kicked on, whirring a warm breeze. Carpets, thick
and plush, squished underneath my feet. The perfect spot located under the front window guided my tired limbs. A fat cow of
a moon streamed in, blending with the subtle glow of the room. In my cocoon of a bag, like a chrysalis waiting to emerge,
romantic visions danced in my mind of conscious energies penetrating every cell. Regardless of the Teacher's level, there
was no question in my mind that conscious forces were at work, and I was at the heart of them.
Everything was new and exciting. Where to shower, when to eat,
where I was "supposed to work", all of it nestled firmly in the realm of the unknown. Gurdjieff used to go to great lengths
to create this experience for those "working on themselves" by creating "shocks" and destroying patterns. This is called "being
out of patterns". It can be done as easily as changing one's habitual activities, be they emotional, instinctive or involving
movement. It may be as simple as driving or walking a different way to work each day. Learning not to express negativity is
positive training for the emotions. Quantum physics is validating this simple truth: fixed behavior and thought become obstacles
to accurate perception and to expanding the mind. However, the point is not to continue doing everything differently. As one
awakens, it’s also important to have habitual patterns in place when higher energies are channeled through us.
We are transmitters and receivers, like cosmic antennae. It would be unconscious behavior to awaken and then force yourself
into some preconceived idea about what it's supposed to be like. We are all at various stages in the awakening process.
The truth is so miraculous and astonishing that it will blow
you away. We can only take so much at a time. Patterns dissolve as higher frequencies are tuned into. During those moments,
which can be extremely intense, the energy must go somewhere. If it is a Kundalini Experience, which many have spontaneously,
it's vital to let the energy from the base chakra UP and OUT through the top of the head. Attempting to contain it can cause
damage, insanity or death. In the past, only those who had studied a long while with a teacher and who meditated many hours
a day could "get it", and even then it was not guaranteed. Today, higher frequencies are beaming upon us continually and as
we approach the shift in consciousness, whenever that may be, it's vital to strive towards balance, integrity and love. The
heart is the center, or key to all possibilities. Open the door to your heart and you will discover everything you've ever
dreamed of - and more. On Kundalini:
At daylight, the lodge took on a whole new appearance. The bottom
floor was simply furnished. A spiral staircase wound upwards opposite the entrance, leading to a private room dubbed "The Meissen Room". This was where
the Teacher "held court" nightly, dispensing his brand of the teaching, which was a mix of prophecy, alchemy and self-aggrandizement.
Twelve places were laid, including his own, no accident indeed. A feeling of opulence was enhanced with elegant antique cases
filled with priceless Meissen figurines, hand-picked from sojourns around the world. Original oil paintings graced rich paneled walls, balanced by a Roman urn in one corner. A scribe stood nearby, writing every
word from the Teacher's mouth, to be edited and published in journals. I had dinner there many times, asked a few questions,
and felt very present at these uncomfortable meals. To say one "enjoyed" dinner with the Teacher would be ridiculous.
There was no such thing as enjoyment. It was more like sitting on a pin cushion for an hour without being able to remove the
pins. Heaven help you if the Teacher spoke directly to you. It has to be the most awkward experience of a lifetime,
as designed. An excellent chance to see "false personality" in action.
I flew up to the "ranch" as often as possible. I lived to go
there, work all day and continue most of the night. Meals were beyond anything served in the finest restaurant. One of the
ideas developed by Robert was that of alchemy. Refining coarse matter into finer is the essence of transformation,
turning base metals like lead into gold. Alchemy is about raising consciousness, not getting rich. He got the best of both
worlds! Initially, I was assigned to work outdoors, performing physical labor. The Lincoln Lodge is located at the top of
a gently sloping hill. Half way down there is a discreet spot created for older students who own matching silver Airstream
trailers. Further down, a barn housed machinery, and at the base of the hill a small residence stands alone where Robert lived when
not traveling. My favorite place drew me in like a magnet: the kitchen. I love cooking. Everything is done with
attention and intention. Being present is key. Many wonderful conversations occurred over chopping vegetables
attempting to "remember ourselves". Wisdom and love expressed itself in that room, a greater teaching place than weekly meetings
held in Berkeley. Various exercises were imposed by the Teacher for all, in addition to private "tasks". All were required
to follow the "word exercise" which entailed not saying "I". Anyone who said "I" was reminded by a silent hand gesture, sometimes
accompanied with a "photograph" of sleep by saying, "You used the word I". As "self-remembering" was the purpose of these
exercises, students would "photograph" each other when the task was forgotten. Most referred to themselves as "it", which
became as automatic as saying "I". This was embarrassing and humorous when ordering food at restaurants. Rather than disobeying
the word exercise, students would order by saying, "It would like a cup of coffee". If you could see the strange looks some
of the waitresses gave us! Older gals knew "the kooks from up North", and shook their heads while rolling eye-balls the moment
we walked through the door.
Life at "the Ranch" was a constant wonderland. One might go
from pulling weeds to peeling carrots, to dressing in suit and tie to dine in the most magnificent room in California, the
"Meissen Room". Of course, that was over 27 years ago, and I suspect these descriptions are long outdated. Robert was truly
"King" of this Empire, and everyone emulated his "self-effacing, humble walk". Tall, broad shouldered, he carried himself
as if he was but a lowly servant, slightly hunched down with a peasant's shuffle. Of course, he wore silk suits and magnificent
rings, not unlike Liberace, but a tad more elegant and "discreet" about his obvious penchant for the Divine Feminine. His
Queen was safely tucked away inside, for private consumption only. With student donations pouring in, and "special donations"
ranging from $400.00 and up, the man raked it in. By now, he must be a billionaire several times over. Before I left, the
concert hall was completed. There were several classical concerts held in opulent elegance beyond description.
I wanted to move there, as others had done, to accelerate my
"evolution". A lot of bad press has been spun about Robert, but my experiences were magical. Regardless of anyone's
bitter opinions about him, there's a lot of jealousy in "esoteric circles", and most people that are "into" Fourth Way
ideas are spiritual snobs. Many are effete intellectuals, for whom being superior consists of making everyone else inferior.
Robert never had to work at that, his presence created the feeling that one was dramatically "less than". I got permission
to move there, and promptly did. At first, I slept in the Lincoln Lodge. To support myself, I worked at a local hospital in
the emergency room. The head nurse was a Witch with a "B". As "ward clerk", my job was to register those seeking treatment.
Two incidents created memory, both during full moons. The first was a dignified man sporting a scarf held in place with one
hand. When asked why he was there, he peeled away the scarf to reveal a huge gaping slash in his throat, nothing short of
a bloody hole. He'd attempted suicide, passed out after slashing his throat, and woke up in a pool of blood. Well, what's
a fellow to do? The other is a bit funnier. Two boys got to arguing at the bar, not uncommon, and started shooting guns at
each other. One was grazed on the arm, the other had barely escaped with his genitalia intact. One more millimeter in either
direction, and he would have been castrated!
Being present, "out of patterns" and self-observation were part
of daily life 24 hours a day. The goal was to permanently attain higher levels of consciousness, complete our own evolution,
and escape death. The "system" taught that man is capable of 7 levels of consciousness, but is born using only three. The
first three apply to three dimensions of space and time, exemplified by the five senses. This is all considered a "sleeping
state" in relation to being an awakened or enlightened being. The Fourth State is acquired through one's own efforts,
by "working on oneself'. One creates an "observing I", then a Steward, and last a Master. The levels increase with dimension.
In our ordinary state we have accidental moments of higher consciousness, or "4th state" experiences when brought near death
or sufficiently shocked. As one cannot rely on shocks or death to achieve higher awareness, conditions for awakening are created
by conscious schools. It is one's own responsibility to verify the source is connected to "C Influence" or higher Celestial
The most remarkable evening occurred when the Teacher claimed
he was "crystallizing" as a "man number five". He left the property and stayed in a hotel room with a few members of his "inner
circle". The entire Fellowship waited breathlessly for this "transformation" to occur. Finally, we were told it had not happened
"on time". Extravagant festivities were placed on hold. Finally, it was official: the Teacher had "crystallized", meaning
permanent transformation. Flowers were brought in by the truckload, white trellises were installed with hanging oriental lanterns.
Fine wines, hors d'oevres and an elaborate "dinner" was planned and executed. It was an enormous success, and we all mingled,
drinking voluptuously. Late that night, trellises interwoven with roses, greenery and tulips, lit Japanese lanterns gently
blowing in the breeze, created eerie and unforgettable images as their shadows played in the wind.
I cleared a space in the mountains from scratch, and pitched
My best friend, Randolph Giddings, was a "sister". For
3 1/2 years I was celibate. There were no rules to my knowledge that forbade sex with other students, but there was so much
happening, it just didn't occur to me. Alcohol was my best companion and Randolph was the funniest Queen I had ever met. He
could be profoundly spiritual, then catty as a bitch in a nanosecond, like the Queen of Hearts from "Alice in Wonderland".
I learned much from his "evolving soul". He left the Fellowship as well, and I discovered that he became a successful chef
at a high class restaurant in Carmel, addicted to speed and an obsessive relationship. He died of substance abuse. Rest in
peace dear friend.
After a couple of years, many wonderful friendships and special
moments wrote themselves onto the landscape of my soul. The school was expanding, not only to other countries but now to many
states in the Americas. Eventually, I was asked to help open a "Center" in Saint Louis, Missouri.
The purpose of these centers was to spread the word, create opportunities to "work on oneself', but I suspect
the underlying reason was to make more money. Be that as it may, I would accompany 6 students who would travel there, locate
a suitable "teaching house", and begin offering prospective student meetings. My friend, Marcelle Bishop, was headed to Ohio,
so we decided to "caravan" together. What a fun trip! It was "eye opening" to reach the dry states, where liquor was hidden
behind the bar, and only members could stash their bottles. I had to bribe the bartender to serve us, as I was feeling "dry
mouthed" and needed a stiff drink or three. The teaching didn't discourage the consumption of "fine wines", and some of us
took that to mean any liquor. No one needs a license to become an alcoholic. A winery was being built as part of the
"civilizing influence" Robert was creating for the fall of civilization. For me, it was an opportunity to get drunk every
night. Being "present" could be very stressful.
Saint Louis was no picnic. I didn't like the other students,
so there were "personality clashes" from day one. The house we ended up with was beautiful. In the "better suburbs" of Kirkwood,
our split-level ranch house included basement, pool table and wet bar. I spent a lot of time in the basement. My alcoholism
increased exponentially. Having to work full time, hide being "gay" in the middle of Saint Louis, then come home and be part
of a prospective student meeting was "trying". I was also attempting to establish a career in the restaurant business. As
alcohol was sold, and I was a manager trainee, many evening hours doing inventory included a few glasses of house wine. Another
of my jobs included selling death insurance door to door in the country where the rednecks lived. One town had a rustic
bar where I stopped for "reinforcements". The "city slicker" had arrived. Locals, who witnessed shootings, proudly pointed
to the walls riddled with gunshot. Someone asked if I ever had "ever clear". Not knowing what it was, I said "no". They looked
at each other with Cheshire cat grins; the game's afoot, Watson. A shot glass appeared in front of me with a clear liquid. I downed it. A bit rough, it hit the spot. Little did I know it was almost a hundred proof! The dudes were amply amazed when
I polished off several in a row and was still sitting on my stool. Years later, I would do that in bars in the Castro District
and not be so lucky. The floor became one of my better friends in the bar scene. Besides, you can talk to a floor and it understands
My career selling insurance was brief, and becoming a manager
for a Howard Johnson's chain seemed easier. That was "magical thinking'. Assistant managers are glorified slaves. They do
everything. Expected to know each person's job intimately, I was trained for two weeks or more on the grill, then as a
dish-washer, as a waiter and so on. When someone called in sick, guess who would have to pull a double shift? Hell would have
been more fun. At one of their "bashes", a promotion which I thought was "in the bag" went to someone else. I reeked of self
pity and disillusionment - didn't they know I was the best man for the job? I drank myself into a stupor. It was Winter and
the drive home was 15 miles away on a snow covered freeway that was as blitzed as I was. No one else was on the road around
2:30 a.m. What kind of self-hypnosis makes us imagine we can drive, no matter how plastered? I always thought I could drive
drunk. After traversing several miles, I either "passed out" at the wheel, or thought that if I followed the car in front
of me, I could "wing it", or both. The car in front of me was actually someone who had a flat tire, whose who stopped for
repairs. I hit him point blank going about 50 mph dressed in a three piece suit. A resounding BANG jolted me
from unconsciousness. All I remember is the sound of glass breaking and an enormous "crunch". My first reaction was to scramble
out of the car before it blew up. I was able to open the driver door and stepped into the crisp night air. Horrified, I turned
around to see the car bent in two, the engine completely flattened, pointing upwards, L-shaped. This was no compact car, but
a rolling tank, a Pontiac LeMans. Steam rose. Terror struck. Had I killed anyone? Would I be arrested for drunk driving? What
would become of me? The most astonishing aspect of this wreck was first, that I was alive, second that the other guy was not
injured, and lastly that my 3 piece suit was perfectly intact, not one button undone. Being totally "limp" from booze no doubt
saved my life. I walked away unscathed, but not from the "justice system". I was arrested.
An angel must have been with me then, and the days which followed, since one of the new students was a lawyer. She advised
me for free, and represented me in court. I got off with a minor fine. This was not my last drunken car accident. Eventually,
the center was closed, while other centers remained open with "reinforcements". Sounds like Iraq. I found a way to get back
to California by driving a new car back for money. To be near the Berkeley meetings, I moved into the LaFayette House in LaFayette,
California. At this point, I was a drunken mess. I made passes at all the other students, male or female, threw temper tantrums
in my room, even tossed my pet parakeet, cage and all sailing in the air. She was uninjured, but the plates and glasses didn't
fare as well. We had a swimming pool, but I can't remember much about it, being literally numb all the time. I do remember
talking to my mother, estranged since my hasty departure from Santa Barbara. I told her it was her "fault" that I was gay.
She snapped back at me, "Don't try laying that on my doorstep!" admonishing that what I did was my choice. She was right,
of course; layers of denial.
Back to a job I knew, I worked as a waiter. On Christmas Eve,
someone called in sick, and I was called in. A chronic codependent, I said "yes". My alcoholism dictated that I keep my job
by acting normal at all costs, though inside I was in deep emotional pain, not wanting to face my own sexuality, or my unhappiness
with the school. It was another dark night of the soul, and we were brain-washed into believing that those who leave
an esoteric school are "dead", doomed to repeat lifetimes of descending cycles of devolution. Those exact words weren't used,
but the emotional feeling was identical. I had turned into my own father, a blackout drinker. I hated myself.
Speaking of my father, it was precisely at this time that he
wanted to visit me. We'd been estranged for many years, but I agreed. I remember him in my bedroom, trembling in fear, relaying
his story about having to flee California. After I ran away, he became friendly with the neighbor kids, in particular two
adolescent boys next door. One of them, Larry, approached him at 12 or 13 years old and told him he had a present, his hand
down the front of his pants. My Dad says he asked what it was, and Larry coyly ran into the enclosed back yard, to be chased.
Dad took the bait - it truly was "jail bait". Thus began a "love affair" which lasted about a year. My father, in addition
to being a reclusive alcoholic, was a pedophile. He encouraged the boys and girls to bathe in the outdoor pond naked. Pictures
were taken. There was also a collection of gay male pornography. I know, because when I lived there I found it under his mattress!
The neighbors saw kids coming and going, him making "wine runs" and Larry's mother got suspicious. She wrestled enough information
out of her boys to call the vice squad who stormed the house to discover homemade films, magazines and pictures. He was told,
"You have two choices: either get out of town or go to jail. You have one week to decide". He decided to leave. His visit
to me, in Northern California, was his exit, stage left It brought us back together again. He ended up in South Carolina for
It was Christmas Eve and I had only one table, a demanding group
I jumped through hoops like a trained circus animal and they
left me no tip. It was too much. If I could have committed suicide in that moment, I would have. Someone saw my plight and
offered a mild muscle relaxant. I had one cocktail before leaving, but it must have been added to a vast repository of alcohol
already stirring inside my body, for the mixture sent me into another blackout. I drove an enormous 1979 Lincoln Continental
with reversed doors. I figured, from my last accident, bigger was better. I was right, of course. On my way home, I blacked
out at the wheel again only this time I hit a granite lamp post, breaking it in two from the impact. I don't remember
anything, yet I walked over a mile to the house in a blackout, nose squashed into my head, unaware of severe injuries. It
was shock commingled with blackout. Once again, angels must have been watching over me. The police traced my wrecked abandoned
car to the house. Apparently, I argued with them about going to the Emergency Room and was told, like my father, "It's either
the Emergency Room or JAIL". I left instantly. We become just like our fathers, eh?
The hand of Providence stepped in again. A plastic
surgeon was on duty Christmas Eve in the Emergency Room. My fractures required facial reconstruction and a nose
job. I had a big nose most of my life, causing no end of insecurity. The required surgery was performed that night. Had it
been another day that passed, everything would need to be broken. I awoke looking like King Tut covered in white bandages
around my head and one eye, the other eye covered by an inverted cup. I was blind for almost a week. At least I got a nose
job out of it. The surgeon was from the Philippines, so all of his "noses" looked like Mrs. Cory Acquino. I hated it at first,
but I was alive to drink another day, and that was all I cared about. Life had no meaning for me. At this time, I traveled
back and forth to "the ranch". One occasion, I got a ride with a tall, slender, good looking male, an architect. We stopped
by his apartment before the final leg of the journey, and he made a pass at me. I wasn't really attracted, and it had been
years since I'd had sex, so frankly I didn't know what to do. Besides, my own sexuality remained a mystery to all but me.
A day later, I was told "the Teacher wants to see you at the
Lincoln Lodge". Somewhat excited, yet apprehensive, I sat next to him in an overstuffed chair. He told me that my architect
friend had asked if it was okay to have sex with another male and had spilled his guts. Bad idea. We were both given "the
task" of not ever having sex with other males. Robert said, with a sweeping gesture in the air, "Can't you see...there's so
much more..." and that was that. You didn't argue with the Teacher. Period. Depressed, I felt that the school was becoming
"too restrictive". Slowly, like a society that is being modified and controlled, it goes largely unnoticed - until it's too
late. I felt the school was turning into, or already was, a cult. I couldn't see why being homosexual
should limit my spiritual advancement.
Not only that, I was one horny male, after years of celibacy.
I told Randolph that I was going to leave. He hated to see me go, but understood completely. We embraced and said goodbye.
It seemed "logical" to make my escape to San Francisco, a doomed failure and raging alcoholic.
I ended up living in the Haight Ashbury with
a buffed Queen who was rarely home, living the "perfect life" of a fag: the gym, polished copper pots, and two alcoholic roommates.
The bars nearby became my new home. Dealing with leaving a school, believing one is basically doomed, is a dark shadow from
which to emerge. Many other students either left at that time, or were asked to leave, especially if they "knew too much".
My good friends, Stella and Harold, who had opened a center in Amsterdam, were asked to leave, having disobeyed the "no smoking"
rule. Several years later I got in touch with Stella, and the truth came out. Robert had been blackmailing the straight male
students, and their underage boys, into having sex with him. They were told point blank if they didn't comply, they'd
be out of the school. This had been going on from the beginning. Robert's "inner circle" had nothing to do with level of consciousness.
It had to do with who could do his bidding and keep their mouths shut. Those were the ones who ended up in "special positions"
either traveling with him, sitting next to him at enormous meetings, or taking on "executive duties". One fellow was used
as his "boy toy", which left indelible scars. He worked through it to eventually become a well-known artist. Those at the
top seemed a bunch of arrogant scoundrels. One of the men who sat in front was a Doctor, who I bumped into at the San Francisco
baths one night. He cringed and left upon seeing me. I was delighted to have left the school on my own terms, having taken
what I needed. "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!", says Auntie Mame.
Stella, in the meantime, began a support group assisting those
who left or were asked to leave. Many folks were suicidal. I joined the group, and more sordid details of Robert's sexual
machinations were revealed, including a class action lawsuit that ended up settling "out of court". I had an opportunity to
move to an apartment on Noe Street in the Castro District. Drinking heavily, I complained to a neighbor that I wasn't having
any sex. He said, "You don't expect men to fall out of the ceiling, do you?" chiding me to leave my apartment once in a while.
Truth is, I was terrified of everything. Riding the Muni was like contemplating bungee jumping with diarrhea and an upset
stomach. It was all I could do to sneak out for liquor, which was purchased in "moderation" because I didn't have a
problem with drinking. Two nearly fatal car accidents, my own mother's demise from alcohol poisoning, and Dad's troubles
with the vice squad taught me nothing. The problem wasn't alcohol, it was life. I needed a job, a boyfriend, new furniture,
and so on - denial isn't a river in Egypt!
One fine summer day at Cala Foods, I had a shopping cart
loaded, as was I, with a six pack, a quart of milk and a cube of butter. as "props". The aisle was narrow, and a nice looking
fellow blocked my way. I self-effacingly said, "excuse me", looking down at the floor. His reply was another memorable moment
in my history, "What if I said NO?!". Shocked, he rammed his cart right in front of me! I was so taken aback that for a brief
moment I laughed. This is what is meant by a "shock". We started conversing, discussed "getting together", and he said he
was busy most nights. Curious, I asked why. He replied, "I go to A.A. meetings". Surprised again, I said enthusiastically,
"You do? I've been thinking about going to one myself"
He offered to escort me that night. I replied, "Oh I can't. Falcon Crest is on tonight" He laughed and said that Falcon
Crest would be there another night, but the opportunity to go to a meeting was for tonight. In other words, don't try
to stall a pro. He said to be at his apartment at 7:45 p.m., warning that he and his lover were having a friend over for dinner,
and would leave afterwards. I arrived on time, but they had not finished dinner. I'd been advised not to drink any alcohol
between that moment and the meeting, which I adhered to. By then, I was sweating like a pig in Texas in the middle of summer;
it's called detoxing. I never stopped drinking long enough for it to begin in earnest. It was embarrassing with sweat pouring
from my head the entire night, but I got through the meeting. It was a gay meeting, and everyone looked so successful, healthy
and "together". I must have heard the right story. When dropped off, I was told to drink honey and orange juice to keep my
sugar content up. I went to the corner liquor store on Castro and 18th, could have bought booze, but chose orange juice and
honey instead. At home, I faced the unopened 6 pack and thought about it. In another moment of truth, I admitted that if I
was serious about stopping, I'd pour the beer down the drain. Miraculously, I chose wisely. That night
brought nightmares, demons, and moments of advanced alcoholism called delirium tremens, or "DT's".
The charming man who had been their dinner guest was an artist
named Don, who took me under his wing. I thank him to this day for his kindness, charity, and love. He became my sponsor,
friend and art teacher. He and his lover David had a house at the Russian River, both "in the arts". I didn't pick up another
drink for over 10 years. During that period, I worked at Headlines for my first job, then upgraded to a stock brokerage firm
with a Queen for a boss. His boss was in the program, and still is today after several decades. The next move was working
for a book publishing company called Sybex, then I jumped back into the City to work in the Controller's Office for Barclay's
Bank. I continued to get lucky and landed a job with a huge construction firm Tishman-West. This was the "pinnacle" of my
career. I had just done Werner Erhardt's est training, was still clean and sober, and life was good. Each job change,
all skills I picked up along the way, were due to my being clean and sober. I stopped going to AA meetings, because after
all - I was cured! I went on to do est's Six Day Experience. It is a marvelous unparalleled inner journey. Meticulously
planned from start to finish, nothing is left out. The essence of the message is: there is only now. The past
has no affect on the present. It is an imaginary construct of the linear mind, which is in duality. Simply stated, most believe
that our past creates our present. The truth shall set you free, but it's not out there, it's within. Carrying the past into
the present places a millstone around our necks, and takes away our power. More accurately, no one can take our power away,
but we give it away and do, not recognizing our true wealth.
It is estimated that some 700,000 people did the training before the seminars
were halted in 1991, when Erhard packed up and left the country [Faltermayer]. He sold the est "technology" to some followers who established Landmark Forum. Erhard's brother, Harry Rosenberg, heads Landmark Education Corp. (LEC), which does some $50 million a year
in business and has attracted some 300,000 participants. LEC is headquartered in San Francisco, as was est, and has 42 offices in 11 countries. Apparently, however, Erhard is not involved in the operation of LEC.
Werner Erhard, my "trainer" during the "est" experience. He said, "I'm probably the WORST trainer here!
Trauma happens, yes. We interpret each moment, applying
our own "filters" to the truth, and make decisions which are forgotten. Those decisions rule our lives. Over time, we begin
adding failures as "reasons why or why not". It's far easier to say, "Oh, I beat women and dogs because my father raped me.
I can't help myself." Past "history" has having no bearing on the present. We are free to live fully and can be anything we
choose to be - NOW! Those stuck in repetitious cycles of using, be it drugs, people or emotional states, can stop anytime,
but there is a "payoff", and it feels good. By changing our behavior neurons begin to reroute themselves. If one consistently
chooses the "high road", the low road simply vanishes in the distance. This is one "secret" how I eventually stopped all addictions.
I decided that no matter what, be it that day or many months away, I'd be completely clean and sober, free from sticking
a needle in my arm. No matter how much or how little I used, that goal was my companion, as if a "done deal".
Many attempt to stop self-destructive behavior by promising,
"I'll never do that again", a setup for repeat performances. That is a good example of what Gurdjieff calls a "buffer". Each
time you "slip" its called failure. Guilt,
shame and depression are its buddies. To escape those feelings, we numb ourselves in addiction and "act out" repeatedly in
spirals of descending madness. If you know that someday you will be free, and you hold that vision for yourself, that
day inevitably arrives. It has to. You've created it in your mind as a reality, and as time passes, the futility of going
nowhere fast becomes obvious. At some point, a "nexus" is reached. I call that a "defining moment".
I was "on a roll". Est and the Six Day had me feeling I could
do anything. Diane Feinstein, then mayor, began a project offering homes to first time buyers in low income brackets. The
houses were built on Potrero Hill, across from the very real low income "projects". Out of the blue, I went to one of the
showings of the models and fell in love. I had never seen such a beautiful home in all my life, and just had to own
one. As my income was insufficient, I asked someone in one of my "est” seminars to go in with me. A sweet lesbian, she
was happy to, then later changed her mind. I asked everyone, and ended up with a tall Norwegian guy who was slightly
disfigured. I should have realized that his disfigurement was the tip of the iceberg. It took months jumping through one hoop
after another to apply. Rewriting history would have been easier. Still, we ended up partners and moved into our brand new
home. Little did I know how much trouble was lurking in my new Paradise.
At a Safeway store, a tall, blonde and built man was exiting as I entered.
We turned around to "check each other out", then did it again! Realizing the humor, we approached each another. That week,
we met for dinner at his apartment, conveniently two blocks away. By that time, I had bought out my "partner" and made the
mortgage payments by renting out two bedrooms.
Though I wasn't active in the AA program, my new friend Don took a deep look
at his own drinking, which I thought was minimal, and chose to stop. He began going to meetings, and we enjoyed spending time
together, usually at his apartment. To be truthful, we only had sex a few times, but sleeping with him was
so much fun; we were like little kids, laughing, joking and tickling each other. Sometimes, the longer he kept me awake, or
vice versa, the funnier it got. He was like a brother to me, perhaps the brother I "would have had". Part of his remarkable
recovery included returning to playing the cello. He was a very talented and accomplished musician. Soon, he was playing with
a full orchestra that gave free concerts in the City, directed by Seth Montefort. The proudest moment arrived when he performed
a solo cello sonata with brilliance. Ironically, it was a funeral dirge, and would be his last live performance. I cherish
the recording to this day.
Six months into the relationship, he returned from a routine Doctor's visit, visibly concerned. He couldn't
keep the information back. His Doctor gave him a diagnosis of full blown AIDS with Kaposi's Sacoma, a form of cancer.
We held each other as both cried. This was the first time I'd known anyone personally with AIDS. Now it had a face, a name
and a life. Emotions were involved. We had ended the "formal" relationship and made the transition to friendship. I was surprised
when our feelings for each other increased. He hated his roommate, and was tired of maintaining an apartment. I had a Master
bedroom opening up, and I offered it to him knowing I would probably have to face his death. That didn't matter. He was my
best friend and that was more important than the pain or inconvenience of his dying. Over many months he fought the most valiant
fight I've ever witnessed. A prior roommate had come down with a flu bug, went to the Doctor who told him he had AIDS and
was going to die. He returned home, crawled into bed and literally proceeded to die. There was never any question about the
diagnosis, just total resignation. Within a month he was "shipped home" to his mother's house. He died within a week because
he believed he would.
Don "fought the good fight" and tried everything, leaving no stone unturned. He did every experimental
"cure" available and in retrospect we both tried a lot of silly “cures”. A clinic back East had a "miracle cure"
and paid his airfare. There, he received horrendous injections into his buttocks of thick black ooze. In spite of everything,
we spent many hours laughing, sharing and enjoying each other's company, knowing the time would approach when the fight would
end. Black sores began cropping up on his body, and when they appeared on his face, he wore cosmetics before going out. Imagine
what it feels like to be considered a "leper". There was a boy who got on the bus whose face was covered with black K.S. lesions,
but he held his head up regardless of the stares, in bold defiance of other's judgment. Bless him if he walks by.
I had worked my way up to become Accounting Manager for Jack London Square. The emotional toll of Don's condition
was increasingly obvious. Don had to go to the hospital once but was released, a sign that his organs were giving out. His
friend Seth, a pianist and conductor, stayed with him during the night. In the early morning hours, he called me out of bed
and said that Don "didn't look very good". That was an understatement. He had gained at least 15 pounds of water, his face
now oval and puffy, eyes squeezed shut. I raced to the phone to call the Doctor and returned. It was like a movie script unfolding.
Intuitively, I took his hand in mine and said my lines: "Don, Seth and I are with you now and we love you very much". I noticed
a tear well up in his eye and before it had a chance to fall he took his last breath. I cry every time I remember that moment.
Au Revoir, dear friend.
I had about 11 or 12 years clean, excluding all the pain pills we popped. Vicodans flowed like tap water
towards the end, and it was the only way I could hold down my job and deal. Other than his prescription drugs, he died clean.
I literally "fell apart". I didn't believe in a soul that continued, yet I knew that Don had waited all night long before
passing, to find the "perfect moment". He knew the value of "good timing" and his delivery was flawless, even at the end.
His most valuable legacy, other than his life, was an incredible poodle mix named J.J. I fell in love with her the first moment
she entered our lives. Don's close friend in Sacramento had found her under an abandoned farmhouse terrified, trembling with
matted hair. Apparently, locals were fond of shooting guns at the stray dogs. She was an angel disguised with paws. She comforted
me during the worst bouts of suicidal depression. Somehow, I continued driving to work yet would have to close my office door
and bawl uncontrollably. I'd break down sobbing while driving on the bridge, resistance was futile. Christmas approached and
again I felt like a hollow, empty cup. One night, as I returned from work, I pulled into the garage and pressed the garage
door button. I glanced into my rearview mirror and was horrified to see two black males crossing the street, putting on ski
masks carrying guns headed my way. There was money in my briefcase in the trunk and an expensive ring on my finger. One
inch before the door closed, one of them stuck a foot underneath the door and slowly it began reversing direction. As
it opened, they stationed themselves on each side, guns pointing directly at me. They yelled commands to take off my jewelry
and give them all my money. I gave them the contents of my wallet, the ring, and as I handed it over "stumbled" to the right,
escaping as fast as I could run. They got their "booty" and took off. That night I heard a voice in my head, "have a drink".
I fell off the alcohol wagon and began drinking for a living. Of course, my "old job" didn't care for being number two and
I was fired, permitting further depths of self-pity and depression. I deserved a drink.
There was enough money saved to live for a few months, and I met a guy through a friend and we "hit it off'.
He seemed okay, so he moved into the vacant bedroom as a tenant. He turned out to be a con artist. After moving in, he encouraged
drinking and pill consumption. Claiming to be a nurse, he left in uniform and returned with a handful of pills which
he insisted I take. I didn't care. Supposedly, he had a Lexus in the shop and wealthy parents - the usual phony baloney story.
My condition went downhill fast. The pills mixed with alcohol were causing hallucinations and bizarre behavior. During one
blackout, I pissed on the wall, as if standing at a urinal. Every night I drank to blackout and did. One night it came to
a head when I went upstairs and tried cooking. Hallucinating, I cut my finger and blood spurted everywhere. I woke up and
felt like I had died with that awful "0MG: I wonder what I've done!" feeling. As I groped my way upstairs, I saw a trail of
piss and blood on the wall and carpets. I found the kitchen with bloody knives and pans jumbled in odd configurations like
some kind of Satanic ritual. It was terrifying. My roommate sat me down and, though putting his living situation in
jeopardy, suggested I get help. That frightened me even more, so I immediately opened the phone book, found Alcoholics
Anonymous and went to a meeting. By the time the meeting ended, sweat was pouring from my head and I felt deathly ill. Nonetheless,
I "knew the drill" and this was part of the price tag. I was willing to pay it once more to regain my sanity.
As my life improved over the next couple of weeks, I began to piece together what was happening and how much
danger I was in. I had a psychotic in my home, feeding me dangerous prescription drugs, telling lies to everyone. Bartenders
confirmed this was his modus operandi, to float in every 3 years for his kill. I had to stay clean at any cost as this was
a matter of life or death. The more my mind cleared, the more I "saw". Though just barely sober, I decided to confront him.
He left, supposedly to get the hot tub from his parent's house, and I left a note on his bed asking for rent and other details.
He never returned. Good riddance to bad rubbish!
I discovered that I was HIV positive around 1987, and that I had “converted” in 1983. Ironically,
my blood work was all saved from that period, due to a Hepatitis B study, where three injections were administered over a
period of a several months. I had become "positive" in the second injection. Yes, I've read the theories that our government
was responsible for infecting homosexuals and the promiscuous during that time, in San Francisco and New York. Years ago,
this realization disturbed me. Today, I say "thank you". Living each day with death hanging over one's head creates an urgency
to find oneself spiritually or bury oneself in addictions. I covered all bases by doing both. When AZT first came out,
it was the new magic bullet. After taking it for a brief period I felt as if I'd aged a hundred years. One day, while walking
J.J., I had to stop in the middle of the block to "catch my breath". In that decisive moment, I asked myself if living like
this was worth it. I decided that if this was the "quality" of life to expect, I'd rather be dead. When I returned, I flushed
the AZT pills down the toilet, like the six pack from years ago. I never took that drug again. In fact, I stayed off
all HIV medication for 20 years, and remained healthy for over 24 years. Many died from taking the high doses that were unwittingly
prescribed. The doctor tells you to take them, so what are you going to do? We live in a society whose commodity was trust.
The physician was often a family friend who helped deliver us and made house calls. That mentality has never been reassessed,
and pharmaceutical companies know this. Think for yourself and thoroughly research any and all medications. What is more important
is to listen to your own body. It is wise beyond comprehension. Find physicians who listen and work with
you. It's a partnership, and your physician is there to empower your choices; after all, it's your life.
I have wonderful physicians today, and we work as a team. I am not advising staying off medication or offering any
medical advice here. It's what I did. Learn to think for yourself. Today, I'm on one of the "cocktails", and my counts continue
to improve. They say I'm "normal", but I'm not sure I'd go that far.
After the trauma of Don's passing and the antics of the con artist, I put the house up for sale. I had sunk
tens of thousands of dollars into that home, and many fun times were had. I can say that I've owned a house in San Francisco,
no small accomplishment for a middle class gay boy with no formal education, and no degree. I thought the "rocky days" were
coming to an end, but what was to follow made my entire existence seem like a walk in the park. At this point, I had taken
enough drugs and alcohol to kill a city block. Next came speed.