How Thich Nhat Hanh Found Himself and Lost His Self in a Library Epiphany

By Maria Popova (

“The self, the place where we live, is a place of illusion. Goodness is connected with the attempt to see the unself… to pierce the veil of selfish consciousness and join the world as it really is,” Iris Murdoch wrote in a 1970 masterpiece — a radical idea in her era and in her culture, counter to the notions of individualism and self-actualization so foundational to Western philosophy. Today, practices like metta meditation and mindfulness — practices anchored in the dissolution of the self, which remains the most challenging of human tasks even for the most devoted meditators among us, offering only transient glimpses of reality as it really is — flood the global mainstream, drawn from the groundwater of ancient Eastern philosophy and carried across the cultural gulf by a handful of pioneers in the 1960s and 1970s.

Chief among them was the great Zen Master and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh (October 11, 1926–January 22, 2022), who arrived in America in 1961 to study the history of Vietnamese Buddhism at the Princeton Theological Seminary, bringing what he learned back to his native Vietnam two years later and devoting himself to the project of peace, for which the South Vietnamese government punished him with a four-decade exile. Half a lifetime later — having been nominated by Martin Luther King, Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize, having founded the fount of civilizational optimism that is Plum Village in France, having survived a stroke that left him unable to speak or walk — he was finally allowed to return to his motherland, leaving the West that celebrated him as the father of mindfulness.

Thich Nhat Hanh. (Photograph courtesy of Plum Village.)

The journal Thich Nhat Hanh began keeping upon his arrival in America as a young man was published half a century later as Fragrant Palm Leaves: Journals 1962–1966 (public library). These remain his most intimate writings — a rare record of his unselfing, which made him himself: the monk who brought mindfulness to the world.

In an extraordinary diary entry penned ten days before his thirty-sixth birthday — the age at which Walt Whitman opened his Leaves of Grass with the declamation “One’s-Self I sing, a simple separate person” — Thich Nhat Hanh contemplates the illusory and interdependent nature of the self as he faces his own multitudes, pitted in the universal inner conflict that comes with being a person in the world, a private cosmos in a public sphere:

It’s funny how much our surroundings influence our emotions. Our joys and sorrows, likes and dislikes are colored by our environment so much that often we just let our surroundings dictate our course. We go along with “public” feelings until we no longer even know our own true aspirations. We become a stranger to ourselves, molded entirely by society… Sometimes I feel caught between two opposing selves — the “false self” imposed by society and what I would call my “true self.” How often we confuse the two and assume society’s mold to be our true self. Battles between our two selves rarely result in a peaceful reconciliation. Our mind becomes a battlefield on which the Five Aggregates — the form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness of our being — are strewn about like debris in a hurricane. Trees topple, branches snap, houses crash.

Two centuries after Coleridge considered the storm as a lens on the soul, and a century after Van Gogh extolled the clarifying force of storms in nature and human nature, Thich Nhat Hanh adds:

These are our loneliest moments. Yet every time we survive such a storm, we grow a little. Without storms like these, I would not be who I am today. But I rarely hear such a storm coming until it is already upon me. It seems to appear without warning, as though treading silently on silk slippers. I know it must have been brewing a long time, simmering in my own thoughts and mental formations, but when such a frenzied hurricane strikes, nothing outside can help. I am battered and torn apart, and I am also saved.

Art by Akiko Miyakoshi from The Storm

In consonance with Alain de Botton’s insight into the importance of breakdowns, he looks back on what the most formative storm of his life taught him:

I saw that the entity I had taken to be “me” was really a fabrication. My true nature, I realized, was much more real, both uglier and more beautiful than I could have imagined.

In a recollection that makes my own bibliophiliac soul tremble with the tenderness of recognition, he goes on to detail what occasioned the storm of his unselfing — his version of the garden epiphany that revealed to Virginia Woolf her life’s purpose:

The feeling began shortly before eleven o’clock at night on October first. I was browsing on the eleventh floor of Butler Library. I knew the library was about to close, and I saw a book that concerned the area of my research. I slid it off the shelf and held it in my two hands. It was large and heavy. I read that it had been published in 1892, and it was donated to the Columbia Library the same year. On the back cover was a slip of paper that recorded the names of borrowers and the dates they took it out of the library. The first time it had been borrowed was in 1915, the second time was in 1932. I would be the third. Can you imagine? I was only the third borrower, on October 1, 1962. For seventy years, only two other people had stood in the same spot I now stood, pulled the book from the shelf, and decided to check it out. I was overcome with the wish to meet those two people. I don’t know why, but I wanted to hug them. But they had vanished, and I, too, will soon disappear. Two points on the same straight line will never meet. I was able to encounter two people in space, but not in time.

Suddenly, all lines dissolved into a boundless field of awareness, without space or time or self:

I feel as though I’ve lived a long time and have seen so much of life. I’m almost thirty-six, which is not young. But that night, while standing amidst the stacks at Butler Library, I saw that I am neither young nor old, existent nor nonexistent. My friends know I can be as playful and mischievous as a child. I love to kid around and enter fully into the game of life. I also know what it is to get angry. And I know the pleasure of being praised. I am often on the verge of tears or laughter. But beneath all of these emotions, what else is there? How can I touch it? If there isn’t anything, why would I be so certain that there is?

Still holding the book, I felt a glimmer of insight. I understood that I am empty of ideals, hopes, viewpoints, or allegiances. I have no promises to keep with others. In that moment, the sense of myself as an entity among other entities disappeared. I knew that this insight did not arise from disappointment, despair, fear, desire, or ignorance. A veil silently lifted effortlessly. That is all. If you beat me, stone me, or even shoot me, everything that is considered to be “me” will disintegrate. Then, what is actually there will reveal itself — faint as smoke, elusive as emptiness, and yet neither smoke nor emptiness, ugly, nor not ugly, beautiful, yet not beautiful. It is like a shadow on a screen.

London’s Holland House library, home to thousands of historic and rare books, destroyed after the 1940 blitz. (Available as a print.)

But from this feeling of losing the self, from this utter demolition of identity, arose a deep sense of having arrived at himself, at an elemental oneness of his being with all being:

At that moment, I had the deep feeling that I had returned. My clothes, my shoes, even the essence of my being had vanished, and I was carefree as a grasshopper pausing on a blade of grass… When a grasshopper sits on a blade of grass, he has no thought of separation, resistance, or blame… The green grasshopper blends completely with the green grass… It neither retreats nor beckons. It knows nothing of philosophy or ideals. It is simply grateful for its ordinary life. Dash across the meadow, my dear friend, and greet yesterday’s child. When you can’t see me, you yourself will return. Even when your heart is filled with despair, you will find the same grasshopper on the same blade of grass… Some life dilemmas cannot be solved by study or rational thought. We just live with them, struggle with them, and become one with them… To live, we must die every instant. We must perish again and again in the storms that make life possible.

Thich Nhat Hanh in the south-west of France during his exile, 1980s. (Photograph courtesy of Plum Village.)

Complement this fragment of Fragrant Palm Leaves — a superb read in its totality — with the poetic physician Lewis Thomas, writing in the same era, on how a sea slug and a jellyfish illuminate the permeable boundary of the self, then revisit Thich Nhat Hanh on the art of deep listeningthe four Buddhist mantras of turning fear into love, and his timelessly transformative teachings on love as the art of “interbeing.”

A Course in Miracles: Lesson 193

Lesson 193 All things are lessons God would have me learn.

God does not know of learning. Yet His Will extends to what He does not understand, in that He wills the happiness His Son inherited of Him be undisturbed; eternal and forever gaining scope, eternally expanding in the joy of full creation, and eternally open and wholly limitless in Him. That is His Will. And thus His Will provides the means to guarantee that it is done.

God sees no contradictions. Yet His Son believes he sees them. Thus he has a need for One Who can correct his erring sight, and give him vision that will lead him back to where perception ceases. God does not perceive at all. Yet it is He Who gives the means by which perception is made true and beautiful enough to let the light of Heaven shine upon it. It is He Who answers what His Son would contradict, and keeps his sinlessness forever safe.

These are the lessons God would have you learn. His Will reflects them all, and they reflect His loving kindness to the Son He loves. Each lesson has a central thought, the same in all of them. The form alone is changed, with different circumstances and events; with different characters and different themes, apparent but not real. They are the same in fundamental content. It is this:

Forgive, and you will see this differently.

Certain it is that all distress does not appear to be but unforgiveness. Yet that is the content underneath the form. It is this sameness which makes learning sure, because the lesson is so simple that it cannot be rejected in the end. No one can hide forever from a truth so very obvious that it appears in countless forms, and yet is recognized as easily in all of them, if one but wants to see the simple lesson there.

Forgive, and you will see this differently.

These are the words the Holy Spirit speaks in all your tribulations, all your pain, all suffering regardless of its form. These are the words with which temptation ends, and guilt, abandoned, is revered no more. These are the words which end the dream of sin, and rid the mind of fear. These are the words by which salvation comes to all the world.

Shall we not learn to say these words when we are tempted to believe that pain is real, and death becomes our choice instead of life? Shall we not learn to say these words when we have understood their power to release all minds from bondage? These are words which give you power over all events that seem to have been given power over you. You see them rightly when you hold these words in full awareness, and do not forget these words apply to everything you see or any brother looks upon amiss.

How can you tell when you are seeing wrong, or someone else is failing to perceive the lesson he should learn? Does pain seem real in the perception? If it does, be sure the lesson is not learned. And there remains an unforgiveness hiding in the mind that sees the pain through eyes the mind directs.

God would not have you suffer thus. He would help you forgive yourself. His Son does not remember who he is. And God would have him not forget His Love, and all the gifts His Love brings with it. Would you now renounce your own salvation? Would you fail to learn the simple lessons Heaven’s Teacher sets before you, that all pain may disappear and God may be remembered by His Son?

All things are lessons God would have you learn. He would not leave an unforgiving thought without correction, nor one thorn or nail to hurt His holy Son in any way. He would ensure his holy rest remain untroubled and serene, without a care, in an eternal home which cares for him. And He would have all tears be wiped away, with none remaining yet unshed, and none but waiting their appointed time to fall. For God has willed that laughter should replace each one, and that His Son be free again.

We will attempt today to overcome a thousand seeming obstacles to peace in just one day. Let mercy come to you more quickly. Do not try to hold it off another day, another minute or another instant. Time was made for this. Use it today for what its purpose is. Morning and night, devote what time you can to serve its proper aim, and do not let the time be less than meets your deepest need.

Give all you can, and give a little more. For now we would arise in haste and go unto our Father’s house. We have been gone too long, and we would linger here no more. And as we practice, let us think about all things we saved to settle by ourselves, and kept apart from healing. Let us give them all to Him Who knows the way to look upon them so that they will disappear. Truth is His message; truth His teaching is. His are the lessons God would have us learn.

Each hour, spend a little time today, and in the days to come, in practicing the lesson in forgiveness in the form established for the day. And try to give it application to the happenings the hour brought, so that the next one is free of the one before. The chains of time are easily unloosened in this way. Let no one hour cast its shadow on the one that follows, and when that one goes, let everything that happened in its course go with it. Thus will you remain unbound, in peace eternal in the world of time.

This is the lesson God would have you learn: There is a way to look on everything that lets it be to you another step to Him, and to salvation of the world. To all that speaks of terror, answer thus:

I will forgive, and this will disappear.

To every apprehension, every care and every form of suffering, repeat these selfsame words. And then you hold the key that opens Heaven’s gate, and brings the Love of God the Father down to earth at last, to raise it up to Heaven. God will take this final step Himself. Do not deny the little steps He asks you take to Him.

Putin’s point of view from November 2017

Logos Wars November 24, 2017 Vladimir Putin: “I invite you to publish the world map in your newspaper and to mark all the US military bases on it. You will see the difference.”

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(Contributed by Bob of Occupy aka Political Bob)

Langston Hughes on humor

“Humor is laughing at what you haven’t got when you ought to have it. Of course, you laugh by proxy. You’re really laughing at the other guy’s lacks, not your own. That’s what makes it funny—the fact that you don’t know you are laughing at yourself. Humor is when the joke is on you but hits the other fellow first—before it boomerangs. Humor is what you wish in your secret heart were not funny, but it is, and you must laugh. Humor is your own unconscious therapy…. Like a welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse and cool the earth, the air, and you.”

in “A Note on Humor” (1966)

James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1901 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri. One of the earliest innovators of the literary art form called jazz poetry, Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance. Wikipedia

Tarot Card for January 31: The Five of cups

The Five of Cups

None of us feel too good when the Five of Cups, Lord of Disappointment, turns up in our readings. It almost always means that somebody somewhere is going to make us feel let down or sad about something. And often when that happens we can end up giving ourselves a hard time, and hurting ourselves unnecessarily.

But there’s one important thing to consider when we get disappointed – we feel that way because an expectation we had is not fulfilled, whether by ourselves or by somebody else. So if you get this card coming up often, it’s worth taking a good look at your expectations. Are they unrealistic? Are they geared to the abilities and characteristics of the person you hold them of? Or do you expect too much – this is an attitude we tend to apply most viciously to ourselves. Are you expecting more than you have a right to? Are you expecting things that the person in question -yourself or somebody else – is simply not able to provide? If the answer to any of the above is yes, then if you change your expectation, you’ll stop being disappointed.

When this card comes up, it warns us that either we have failed to resolved an old difficulty, or that – realistic or not – our expectations are about to be disappointed. Often this will happen in an emotional situation (because this is a Cup card) but can happen elsewhere in our lives too, because disappointment itself is an emotion and therefore belongs to Cups. Aside from locating where the problem lies, there’s rarely much that can be done except preparing ourselves to accept the inevitable consequence of being alive – into each life a little rain must fall etc.etc.

One thing that is always worth bearing in mind with a card like this is that the feelings which arise when it occurs often scare us into failing to take another risk, failing to make another effort, hiding away where we can’t be disappointed again. But then if we give in to those sort of feelings we’re expecting to be disappointed again, aren’t we? So maybe we need to think about the Nine of Wands when we see the Five of Cups, reminding ourselves of that inner reserve of strength and capability we can all release inside us!

The Five of Cups

(via and Alan Blackman)

The Inversion of Our Myths with Betty Kovacs

New Thinking Allowed with Jeffrey Mishlove Betty J. Kovacs, PhD, taught symbolic/mythic language for twenty-five years. She has served as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Jung Society of Claremont, California, and sits on the Academic Advisory Board of Forever Family Foundation. Dr. Kovacs is author of Merchants of Light: The Consciousness That Is Changing the World, winner of The Scientific and Medical Network 2019 Book Prize and a Nautilus Silver Award. She has also written The Miracle of Death: There Is Nothing But Life. Her website is Here she maintains that, throughout the world, original myths describe our connection with an invisible world in which we partake of immortality. This is expressed in ancient cave cultures and shamanistic traditions. It can be found is esoteric culture worldwide. In particular she focuses on myths concerning the Tree of Life. She suggests that this myth was inverted by the Deuteronomists around 620 BCE and that this inversion has shaped Western culture, and caused much suffering. New Thinking Allowed host, Jeffrey Mishlove, PhD, is author of The Roots of Consciousness, Psi Development Systems, and The PK Man. Between 1986 and 2002 he hosted and co-produced the original Thinking Allowed public television series. He is the recipient of the only doctoral diploma in “parapsychology” ever awarded by an accredited university (University of California, Berkeley, 1980). (Recorded on May 11, 2020)

New Thinking Allowed with Jeffrey Mishlove Betty J. Kovács, PhD, taught symbolic/mythic language for twenty-five years. She has served as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Jung Society of Claremont, California, and sits on the Academic Advisory Board of Forever Family Foundation. Dr. Kovacs is author of Merchants of Light: The Consciousness That Is Changing the World, winner of The Scientific and Medical Network 2019 Book Prize and a Nautilus Silver Award. She has also written The Miracle of Death: There Is Nothing But Life. Her website is Here she reflects upon World War II and the dark side of humanity’s psyche. She points out that working on the shadow must always begin with oneself. She emphasizes the necessity of connecting the intellect with one’s own heart. The legend of Faust exemplifies this principle. She also explains her visionary experience of Anubis, the jackal deity, who transforms decayed material within his own body. New Thinking Allowed host, Jeffrey Mishlove, PhD, is author of The Roots of Consciousness, Psi Development Systems, and The PK Man. Between 1986 and 2002 he hosted and co-produced the original Thinking Allowed public television series. He is the recipient of the only doctoral diploma in “parapsychology” ever awarded by an accredited university (University of California, Berkeley, 1980). (Recorded on August 4, 2020)

Book: “Why Astrology Endures”

Theodore Roszak

20 pages, Paperback

First published April 1, 1986

Theodore Roszak

Theodore Roszak

Theodore Roszak was Professor Emeritus of history at California State University, East Bay. He is best known for his 1969 text, The Making of a Counter Culture.

Roszak first came to public prominence in 1969, with the publication of his The Making of a Counter Culture[5] which chronicled and gave explanation to the European and North American counterculture of the 1960s. He is generally credited with the first use of the term “counterculture”.


Jesus Christ Starts Rival Eternal Paradise After Family Rift

Friday 9:14AM (

THE COSMOS—In an acrimonious parting of ways that follows more than two millennia of heavenly collaboration, Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, announced Friday He had started a rival eternal paradise after a bitter falling out with family. “Due to differing visions of what the future of heaven should look like, I have decided to leave the family business and build My own promised land,” Our Lord and Savior said of the new concept afterlife He calls JC’s Spot, which reportedly offers bespoke services to high-end clientele and includes strategic cross-faith partnerships with Buddha, Vishnu, and His father’s longtime rival Satan. “Heaven is stuffy, antiquated, and out of touch with what people want from salvation. But JC’s Spot will cater to the rapidly evolving tastes of elite souls, focusing less on harps and clouds and more on just drinking wine and hanging out in an exclusive section of the firmament.” At press time, Jesus was seen handing out fliers around churches hoping to lure away some of His Father’s old clients.

The Undeniable Allure of Meat Loaf

Summer Brennan Revisits the Genius of “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)”

By Summer Brennan

January 24, 2022 (

When I saw Meat Loaf’s iconic I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) for the first time on MTV, I had just finished eighth grade. It was… I mean… oh my god. This music video had everything: revving engine sounds; a mausoleum; a Michael Bay-directed helicopter, car, and motorcycle chase; a foggy blue forest; angst; a sexy fat man in Halloween makeup smashing a literal hall of mirrors; flashlights; dorky lyrics; sexual longing; an opulent bi-curious bedroom set, lesbian succubi absolutely included; and so, so many candles. It was a power ballad missile of queasy erotic awakening aimed straight at my 14-year-old heart.

I was powerless to resist it.

The pure old-fashioned melodrama of it all. The absolute cheesiness. The passion. It was glorious. It was ridiculous. It was histrionic. It was camp as fuck. It was a music video that asked, what if Quasimodo was an over-the-top bombastic 70s rock star and also sang like the Phantom of the Opera? What if a floor-length white dress could also show your whole underwear? What if you followed a fugitive hunchback through the dark woods and then bathed in your clothes by the light of a thousand burning tapers? What if backup singers? What if lightning? What if chandeliers?

If you were unmoved by this kind of thing, even in middle school, then fine, but you are not my people.

That year I started to write a novel about… I’m not even sure. An enormous gothic house on a moor. An historical romance love triangle about two brothers who loved the same woman, and of course it was all very tortured. Cold silk on pale skin. Lots of blue light and fog. Surely someone would die of consumption. I was exactly the right age for this video, the age when sex goes from “eew” to “hmm, tell me more.” I wanted some of whatever Meat Loaf and Michael Bay were selling.

It wasn’t that I wanted him, the ‘Loaf himself—I didn’t have any crushes on adult men at that age, not even celebrities—but I wanted that hunger. I wanted to be hungered for like that, to be the object of it. After all, this was what young girls my age had been taught to desire above all else: to be the object of that kind of hunger. We desired to be desired.

What is that sick feeling that so often comes with desire? What part of us wants to love the Beast?

That is the thing about Meat Loaf that can be lost on the uninitiated, on those who haven’t seen the truly searing conviction with which he made out onstage with Karla DeVito while performing Paradise by the Dashboard Light: Meat Loaf in his corpulent prime was a future queer icon, an androgynous man who was femme but in a butch way, a Dionysian god of teenage appetites; fat, sweaty, and way too sincere.

The Anything For Love video was an obvious Beauty and the Beast story, too, a fairy tale which has always been an allegory for arranged marriage, intended for young girls. Hang in there, it seems to say. Have patience and the beast in your bed will turn into a power ballad-belting prince one day. The Beast, the monster, is a stand-in for the outsider, the stranger, the foreigner; the adult man when you are still a child who fixes you with a sexual gaze; the man from another tribe who you’ve been sent to live with and to bed.

Monsters and sex have always gone hand in hand. They exist on the titillating border between disgust and desire, between the forbidden and the inevitable. For women especially, the experience of sexual contact is positioned on a spectrum so broad it is unrivaled by almost anything else, from the transcendently positive on the one end, to the worst thing that has ever happened to you on the other, an act of utter destruction. Sometimes, in the fertile imagination at least, those poles can become blurred.

Popular culture is full of the persistent allure of the monster, from Bela Lugosi’s Dracula to the Asset in The Shape of Water. Even when the monster himself is not the object of desire—and the alluring yet physically repulsive is always male—we still love to contrast the beauty of a girl against the hideousness of some creature. Fay Wray’s loveliness seems all the more fragile when caught in the enormous fist of King Kong. The monsters of 1950s B movies were always shown in posters with the limp body of an attractive young woman, carried in scaly arms or slung over hairy shoulders.

What is that sick feeling that so often comes with desire? What part of us wants to love the Beast?

Beauty and the Beast is also a story for the sexual awakening most of us go through in adolescence, when we are both beauty and beast. Sex itself presents as monstrous, frightening, a foreign land full of dangers and things that repulsed our child minds. In our newly adult-adjacent bodies we may find ourselves for the first time as objects to be desired, and not always appropriately. But we are also the Beast, suddenly deformed and harboring desperate longings; with squawking voices and lumbering posture, sprouting lumps, hair, and inconvenient protrusions.It was glorious. It was ridiculous. It was histrionic. It was camp as fuck.

The fascination with sex and monsters comes, I think, from this borderland, which we all inhabited at one time, when the disgust mechanisms ingrained in our childhood selves served to protect us from sexuality and its destructive forces. Then the walls are breached, and eroticism seeps in.

Meat Loaf seeps in too. Or rather, he bursts through the walls on a motorcycle like a sexy, leather-clad Kool-Aid man.

For the record, these are the things that Meat Loaf won’t do, as stated in the song:

1. lie to you
2. forget the way you feel right now
3. forgive himself if you don’t go all the way
4. do it better then he does it with you (so long)
5. stop dreaming of you every night of his life
6. see that it’s time to move on
7. be screwing around

No, he won’t do that.

New York & London 1977

Further Adventures Down The Path…

Gwyllm Llwydd Jan 29, 202212

1977 New York/London.

A flurry of activity, last few days in L.A. Saying goodbye to friends for at least awhile. Talked to the manager of The Sidewalk Cafe to make sure I had a job if and when I came back. Packed, unpacked, tossed out bunches of clothes, kept a notebook to write in, hid Blotter Acid in its spine, just in case, ya know. Traveling light, I basically had a carry-on bag, 2 shirts, pants, slouch hat, raincoat. I planned to buy clothes etc in London when I arrived.

Flew into New York and took the subway into Manhattan. You often hear/read that New Yorker’s aren’t friendly. Not true, just get on the subway at the airport, with a pack & a slouch hat. Everyone wants to give you directions, where to get the best slice (pizza), “Where ya going?” and multiple other questions.  I disembarked in central Manhattan where my friend Chris met me and eventually took me over to his place in Brooklyn Heights. I had known Chris for several years along with his longtime lover Dan. They had broken up a year or more before and Dan had moved to Amsterdam. 

Chris was originally from Kentucky and was about 10 years older than I. He had come out (about being Gay) to his family when he was 18 and they had promptly put him in a mental asylum where he received multiple electric shock treatments to cure him of his homosexual desires. Of course, that didn’t work. It left Chris with some short-term memory problems, and he recounted examples to me as we were traveling to his flat. He went on about having to write down on a piece of paper where he was going, having found himself sitting for 4 hours one day on the underground going around and around Manhattan totally sunk into his thoughts.

When we got to the flat, he introduced me to his new lover, a young deaf guy. We sat around, smoked pot and tried to communicate to each other. It was all kinds of lovely and mind boggling. They were so entranced with each other; it was nice to see.

This was the first time I was in New York since I was a kid and I found it really quite wonderful. One of the wonders of New York was Chris’s flat. He had stacks upon stacks of New York Times New Yorker East Village Other as well as other publications in his living room. The stacks were 3 ft high, I asked him about it when I came in “to oh, I collect things” he said… Try this out figure out which newspaper or magazine you want me to locate and give me a date and I’ll tell you where to find it. I did so: “East Village Other 1967 October 2nd.” Chris replied “It’s in that stack three from the bottom and its actually October 4th not second.” And he was right. We did this for a couple of hours or so it seemed I found it absolutely fascinating that he could memorize where each periodical was.

We headed over to the Greenwich Village later on after I was rested. We first went to the White horse for drinks and to see the famous names carved into the bar. I found Dylan Thomas’s name carved into the bar… Absolute heaven. We spent the night drinking and going from Bar to Bar. He talked about the heady days of the Stonewall Rebellion. It was all kinds of wonderful.

We took in a couple of off Broadway shows during that week one of them starting at 3:00 a.m. in the morning in the East Village, heavens this town never seems to sleep. I can’t remember if any of the shows were worth the time, but just to be out and about in New York was great.

Studio 54

While I was in New York I looked up a couple of friends from LA who happened to be models. They had recently moved to catch opportunities in the Big Apple. I connected with them in the evening, they lived in a building that was dedicated to young women only, which I thought was kind of interesting: a dormitory without a college who knew? When I arrived, they were dressed exquisitely; they informed me that we were all going to Studio 54. When we stepped out of the building there was a big stretch limo waiting for us. It took us over to Studio 54, dropping us off at the front door much to the chagrin of people standing in line as we were escorted in. It turned out to be the opening party for “Hair’s” revival. This being early October as “Hair” was opening October 6th at the Biltmore theater. This wasn’t exactly my cup of tea but I was along for the ride. Turns out that the bar was completely open much to my satisfaction and after going back several times for Jack Daniels the bartender just handed me the bottle which was even better yet.

Studio 54 was pretty wild and as I was enjoying the spectacle and music I started to converse with a lovely young lady, who turned out to be Swiss. She was working as an au pair with one of the old established families in Manhattan. We caught a cab back to the Brown Stone, to spend the remainder of the evening and then several days together before I flew off to London.


Following a vision/dream I had in 1976 living on the North Shore of Oahu, (more on that later,) departing New York, I flew into London in early October to see what the scene was like and to perhaps start a new chapter in my life. Arriving in London, customs thoroughly, and I mean thoroughly went over my bag, jacket, etc. missing the Blotter obviously. (This would happen repeatedly over the years) Caught the train into London from Gatwick… a beautiful morning.

Background: I was recovering from a long-term relationship that turned toxic in 1973/4 and I was still struggling to extricate myself from the emotional side of it… I felt that London and Europe were going to be the break that I needed to reorient myself. (I was also working on a book at that point, which was published in 1979).

First impressions of being in the UK: I could breathe. First time since moving from Canada as a kid, my sinuses were happy. There was also an odd feeling of familiarity with being there; it was like memory but not. I felt strangely at home, no, not London, but the UK. Was it inherent memory? 98% of my genetics are tied to this Island and Ireland… which at that point I didn’t know except the familial stories. How do you explain it? The light, the air, the land… The faces on the streets

Part of the nebulous plan for my time in London was getting signed with Stiff Records as my friend Phil over-the-top i.e. Snakefinger who I had played music within LA was old buddies with Jake Rivera the owner of said label. Phil had been in Chili Willy & The Red-Hot Peppers, and when he moved to the States (staying with John & Yoko for a while in the Dakota as his wife was Yoko’s secretary) became friends with the Avant Rock band, “The Residents” San Francisco based, Dada inspired, and truly wonderful people. Phil was taken with my over-the-top vocals and harmonica playing. We usually did Eddie Cochran & Buddy Holly with the occasional Who covers when playing in Venice and elsewhere. He was truly a consummate musician, and a great person to boot.

After arriving in London, I ended up in Brixton staying at my friend Fizzle’s commune just down from Brixton market. Fizzle, who I had met and hung out with in Venice and Santa Monica (friend of Phil’s as well), happened to be a secretary at Stiff Records.

As I said, I arrived in London in early October… It was absolutely glorious. One of those early autumn’s that only Britain can have. Fizzle and I ran around to various clubs and pubs, hanging out on King’s Road on the weekends and generally having a good time. Brixton market was a wonder with multiple DJs and sound systems playing throughout it with the most amazing music from Jamaica and Jamaican diaspora in London. The smell of the markets herbs and cooking were heady, mixed with the smell of ganja & hash. A pure delight.

Brixton Market, Long Ago

As I said Fizzle took me around London up to Kings Road, Camden town and other hot spots at that time period. I found some interesting correlations between London in 1977 with the Haight in San Francisco in 1967, in that London (along with New York) was a nexus point for a cultural shift. I spend lots of time wandering, observing and meeting people. From “Seditionaries” to “Boy” and other shops along Kings Road and elsewhere you could see fashion evolving almost daily. There was a cascade of great music and art, London was erupting with a creative spirit at that point… It was all very heady.

I ended up sleeping on Fizzles’ floor in her room, which was kind of her. It was a great commune. They opened the door to me with my comings and goings. The level of sharing and laughter was a delight… There were some real cultural awakenings on my part, and we often had conversations deep into the night about the variances between the California experience and the London/UK experience. While there the commune turned me on to all kinds of new music including Ian Drury & The Blockheads and Elvis (“our Elvis” as they said) Costello & the Attractions.

One of my favorite housemates of Fizzles was a wee moggy/kitty named Atom. Atom wasn’t the sharpest blade but very sweet. The neighborhood kids have been playing with him upstairs in the commune and had decided they wanted to see if he’d land on his feet when he was 6 weeks old as I remember them saying… it didn’t happen and he landed on his head, so he was a bit short on some things but not on sweetness; he just love to curl up in your lap and purr like crazy.

One of the highlights of our time together was to see Dr. Feelgood, along with Mink Deville at Hammersmith Odeon, mid-October. On the way there, I got jumped by 4 guys whilst we were heading down the stairs to the Underground in Brixton.  I knew I was in trouble when Fizzle turned around, looked at the situation with eyes like saucers… suffice to say I don’t think they were quite prepared for someone to resist them. Sizzle commented that” you were mad to fight back there were four of them! I replied “It was all automatic when I felt their hands seize my arms, I saw red.” There were no further adventures on our way to Hammersmith Odeon I am happy to say. It was a great show, Mink DeVille opening and Dr Feelgood giving a stunning show. sadly, for me Wilco Johnson had been replaced by a new guitarist as he had gone solo.

I kept on putting off going in and meeting with Jake Rivera which perhaps in hindsight was a mistake, but life turned out okay without doing so. There was no way that I could compete in talent with a lot of the people on their roster at Stiff Records. At least that was my feeling at that point in time.

A couple of weeks into the stay in London I realized that I couldn’t stay on Fizzle’s floor forever… I had made friends with several people down on Kings Road and one of the guys that I met, a wide boy from the EastEnd suggested that I come and doss out at the squat that he and his bandmates had on the Isle of Dogs in an old East India Trading Company Tea Warehouse. Harry as I knew him also was one of the very few people in London that I knew that actually had a car, so he drove me over to the EastEnd on a glorious Saturday afternoon with the autumn just exploding around us along the way. It was sheer heaven. Being Saturday, we of course stopped off at the pub on the way I had fallen in love with British pub life, drinking was not as serious there or at least it wasn’t then as it was in a bar in the US. Much more of a social atmosphere which I absolutely delighted in. After a few pints we walked over to the warehouse and then up the stairs for seven stories. I never been in a warehouse that old and it was really amazing architecture but here’s the deal we got to the Squat and you went through the door and there was a plank that went across a gaping hole in the floor which when you look down went all the way to the water where tea was holed up by ropes at one time… This being where we were going to stay and live so getting across this drop was going to be a challenge at the best of times.

I stayed in Brixton for a couple more days, then I went ahead and moved over with the help of Harry. I gave my thanks to Fizzle and her wonderful housemates and said goodbye.

The Isle Of Dogs:

Harry & I got back to the Isle of Dogs, taking my belongings upstairs across the chasm, deposited them and then of course we headed off to the pub. After about five or six pints we headed out. It was dark as we made our way to the Thames.  We stood by the water and smoked hash for about an hour. I slipped into a revery, watching the waters of the river flow by. I could feel the flow of life… and yet I could not put my finger on the direction I was going in.

The East India Tea House, at the turn of the previous century

We headed to the warehouse walked up those flights of stairs… then I had to maneuver across the chasm completely stoned on hash and alcohol. I ended up crawling across the board hanging on for dear life looking at the Thames below… much to the amusement of everyone. I found a nice corner to lay down and proceeded to fall asleep. Around 3:00 in the morning I woke to the horrible din as the band had decided to have a practice session. It turned out that this was a nightly occurrence as soon as they all were home. I just couldn’t adjust to it! (Today, the building has been converted to condos, going for a million pounds, sad. It was full of artist, musicians, young families. It was a great little community)

After a few days, I ended up taking a bed sit for a week or so. I was rapidly souring on London at this point it just didn’t feel right…. something was missing, and I felt outside of its mysteries. Whatever I was looking for, wasn’t present. (yet)

I’d sent a letter over to Dan in Amsterdam and asked him if I could come stay for a while and he enthusiastically invited me over. The next evening, I set off to Amsterdam on the boat train.

The Boat part of the Boat/Train…. ;p

The first part of the journey was at Waterloo Station (ah, I thought of The Kinks every time I passed through Waterloo…) to catch the Boat/Train to The Netherlands. It was a beautiful night for traveling and I fell in talking to a few people along the way. The crossing to The Netherlands was uneventful on the main, one of the perks being you could get a pint of Heinekens for 15pence in the salon! The younger ones in the crowd aboard of course went over the top with this, making the toilets a no go near the bar.

I ended up sleeping on a deck chair with the moon above, the North Sea all surrounding, heading towards Mother Europe….

Still dreaming, still questing for whatever was driving me on.

Thank You for Reading…

One of my favourites from my time in London, the album came out the week before I arrived…

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By Gwyllm Llwydd  ·  Launched 5 months ago

Memories, Musings, Speculations, & Occult Adventures along the Poison Path.