Sunday, July 29, 2007


K-- spoke with me between grocery shopping and making connections with her sixteen-year-old daughter. Born 1944, Boston area.

My father was professor. When I was in college, after I graduated, I went to Berkeley, and bam! I had grown up with the understanding that when you finished high school, you went to college. I didn’t know what I was doing. After two years, I questioned what I was doing seriously, but then I thought, well, I’m halfway through, I might as well finish, so I did. I had a roommate who had finished six months earlier and went to finish up at Stanford, and she was out there, living at Berkeley, so that’s where I headed the day I graduated.

I found a whole different world -- it was ‘66. The free speech movement had been underway for a year -- it was pretty interesting. My friend and roommate got involved with the Communist party - she was real political so I was becoming familiar with what was going on real fast. What with barricades in the streets and the army there, holding it under curfew for awhile, it was pretty intense, and I got a dose of what front line politics could erupt into. I felt real confused by it, torn in a couple of different directions, one to be out there and march in the streets, but at the same time I knew that those people were getting dragged off to Santa Rosa prison, having to lay on the pavement face down in the hot sun all day -- it didn’t matter how old they were. That was pretty scary.

And at the same time, I started reading books that were more spiritually oriented and being outdoors, started smoking marijuana. So a lot of things were starting to open in my brain, new places I’d never been before. In that confused state, Ram Dass came to town, right in the middle of -- the place was under siege -- and he showed up and spoke at the high school, and said some things that made my choice clear. I found that I couldn’t participate in the confrontational situation, that that wasn’t the path -- it didn’t seem right to me to be doing that. There were ways to participate but to actually get out there and confront the police in the streets felt like it was just creating more conflict.

I was working at a business I had started there. I had started working at a copy service first, Xerox copy services which was pretty new then, and the man who owned it had a side business using the machines doing library reference research for a lot of laboratories and things, R&D labs. At some point the next year, he decided to leave town -- so I bought the business from him and did that for a number of years. That was kind of fun, the library research aspect of it. I applied to grad school at Berkeley and got into library science, took a few courses -- I didn’t really want the degree -- I just wanted the information to help me do what I was doing.

I had access to all the libraries there -- the library system there is pretty amazing. I had access to all the stacks. Basically, I was locating material for people. R&D labs in medicine, physics, NASA -- all kinds of sciences around -- the Bay area was incredibly loaded with that kind of stuff. Their librarians would send requests for material -- and my business was literally right across the street from the campus -- that was fun. To locate it, especially when things were some obscure paper from someone in Poland, and the paper was in Polish -- I had to learn to transliterate the alphabet and figure things out.

Then, I figured out I didn’t have to be in Berkeley to do that. I could live out in the country, come to town once a week -- so I started to move out. I wanted to get out to the country, that back to the land kind of feeling. I wanted something more quiet. I moved out in ‘70 -- it wasn’t as intense by then in the city. A country life appealed to me -- all my summers had been spent in rural Wisconsin, where my family came from.

I had been involved in women’s consciousness raising groups at Berkeley. That was not an issue thing, but more a personal pursuit.

When I first moved out, I moved to Sonoma County -- before I met H -- I lived there until late ‘72, and then briefly moved back to town and started apprenticing with a man there who was doing commercial plumbing. I began to learn the plumbing trade. Then in ‘73, I met H--, moved north, did some plumbing jobs -- I plumbed the fire department.

I loved living primitively. It was real nice. Even now sometimes I think about it -- I’ve gotten used to air conditioning and electricity. When we moved to Arkansas, we lived for a long time without electricity or plumbing. When we bought a house in ‘80, it was really different -- there was electricity in the house. I knew there was electricity in the house, it was almost like I could feel it or sense it or something. Having lived for ten years without it -- it was real strange. It wasn’t something you could hear -- but I could feel it. It passed eventually, I got used to it. Having it was nice, turning lights on.

All those years out of the mainstream I was doing something different because I liked it better. It was an adventure, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I gained that knowledge that we can survive, and I could do it again if I had to. We could certainly all get along with a whole lot less and still be happy. A lot of peace, and yet there was always this little tickling --- I remember sitting on the hill in front of our cabin in California overlooking the valley, and thinking, jeez, this is nice, and there would be this little voice saying, yeah, but what else, what next? There’s a world going on out there -- I never felt like I’d be there until I was 80 years old. I didn’t know what would come next, but somehow I just didn’t feel like it would go on forever.

I’ve never had a career -- I’m not working right now. I’ve worked as a secretary, done a lot of waitressing over the years. I’ve been involved in natural foods on and off a lot -- my whole diet started to change when I was in San Francisco. I started paying attention to what I was eating. I didn’t eat meat for a long time, but it wasn’t a religious thing.

As a parent, I tend to wait until she asks. I haven’t told her about drugs yet -- she hasn’t asked. I’ve talked to her about it in terms of her making wise choices, but she’s never turned it around and asked, did you ever? Until she does, I don’t think I’ll bring it up. We talk about smoking -- she knows I smoked cigarettes. She wants to get our reaction before she does something, but sometimes I think she’s already done it. I know she’s already smoked. Just the other day she was asking about drugs -- I said, well, I guess I’d be a little disappointed because I think you know better. When I was growing up, we didn’t know as much about how harmful it could be -- and she said, you wouldn’t be angry, ground me, put me in Charter [a treatment facility]? And I said, baby are you kidding? Give me a break. Then she said, well, I couldn’t smoke at home, could I? And I said, no. I try to be honest with her.

Both of us have quit -- I had no choice -- I got pneumonia. I smoked cigarettes from the time I was 15 until I discovered marijuana. Then I developed a kind of chronic bronchitis. Whenever I’d get a cold, bam, it would go to my lungs, and I would always have these horrible chest infection things. But I kept smoking marijuana until around ‘76, when I got pneumonia real bad, ended up in the hospital with an IV in my arm -- they didn’t tell me this, but H said for awhile they didn’t know. I mean, I was in the cabin with a fever of 103 for three days, dehydrating real bad -- anyway, while I was there in my delirium, I thought, oh, smoking -- this is not good. I got the message, thank you very much. I quit. That was a lot of years -- I smoked a lot.

I think we’ve made a difference, but I don’t know if it’s all real great. I think a lot of change for the good has resulted, particularly in environmental issues. That battle, that consciousness has changed. In general tolerance. There’s still a long way to go. It’s a process. But we started the process with an intensity that has kept it alive.

The whole drug thing was kind of negative. It was so much easier then, and it wasn’t quite so scary. I think that the whole drug thing has gotten so out of hand and there are so many scary drugs out there, things that are real dangerous. I mean, the drugs we used -- marijuana, acid, mescaline -- I don’t think they were scary. Now all kinds of things can really destroy people. And I think that was a path we opened. And the use is different. Recreational.

The sexual thing -- I think it needed some breaking down. I was pretty promiscuous, a lot of sex without much else. It seemed just fine. We didn’t have AIDS to deal with, a major difference. From my perspective now, I’m not so sure. It’s not like I’ve become a prude or anything, but I question it more. I was in my 20s -- my daughter is 14. I’m hoping to hold her off for a few more years. She has not asked me about my sexual background. I’m not quite sure how I’ll talk to her about it. She’s quite sure she can do anything at her age that I did in my 20s. I’ve felt real lucky that she’s been at school with H. She likes having him there because he’s a popular teacher, and that helps. One more year, and then we’ll have to turn her loose at the high school. At her age, I was a pretty straight and narrow kid right through high school, played on the basketball team, went to my church youth group, did the whole honor student thing.

Monday, July 23, 2007


K talked in the living room of his home, looking out through large windows over a steep hillside caught up in a natural tangle of urban woodland. Born 1946, New York.

When I was 13 or 14, my older brother was involved in the rock and roll movement. He wrote Elvis Presley’s first big hit, and he did some records himself. So as his younger brother, I was sort of peripherally involved in that stuff, and it wasn’t exactly the flower power aspect, but it was counter the standard culture. He would come back to the house and Bobby Darin would be there, Sal Mineo would be there, and they’d be playing poker downstairs. They weren’t as cool as James Dean, but they were on that type of path. It showed me that there was something different out there from what the parents were telling you.

I was the first of the baby boomers. Nowadays they start smoking pot when they’re 13 or 14. In those days, we didn’t. I didn’t do it til I got to college, probably 18. And I don’t recall my brother doing it at all. They did do alcohol. I don’t remember them doing any drugs. Later on, they must have, because Sal Mineo died of a drug overdose and Bobby Darin did some too. Anyway, I don’t know that it did for me as much as I would have liked it to, in retrospect.

There was always this tension because I was the third of four children. My older brother and older sister didn’t do anything in the way of education, and both of my parents were very strong into getting your education, the college degree. There’s seven years of difference between my older sister and myself, so it’s almost like two sets of children. I always to a certain extent stayed the course by staying in college and getting my degree. I guess I felt that getting an education would benefit me, so to not get it just because they said to get it would have been self-destructive. However, I worked my way through college by playing in a rock and roll band. I started out at Cornell University, and I played a band there. And that, at that time, early ‘60s, that was pretty radical. Strangely enough, it didn’t bother my parents. Maybe they were more liberal than others. My mother was actually sort of happy that I was going into music because that’s what she was in. She was an opera singer.

I was pre-med when I went to school, because that’s what I thought I should be. That didn’t work out, and I decided I was going to do what I wanted to do. Still within an educational venue, but I was going to do it.

At Cornell, we did marches for individual freedom in general – the right to speak your mind on whatever you wanted to speak your mind on, not be censured in certain areas from saying things. Still, at that point in time, you couldn’t go to the dean or sit in the dean’s office or do a protest or something like that and talk about things, except according to their agenda. So it was fairly tight. Myself and some of the people I hung out with – we protested things we felt affected our personal freedom, freedom to move around, freedom to speak, or whatever.

And when I moved to Illinois in ‘66 and went to school there, I had changed totally. I went into creative writing. That was more a personal expression. I was still doing the college thing, but doing it in a way I wanted to do it. And it’s like – in the ‘50s there were beatniks and stuff doing all sorts of different things, but I mean, for our generation, we were the first who started experimenting with these various means of self expression, drugs, whatever you want to call them. We didn’t take what would now seem to be giant steps. Then, even just smoking marijuana seemed like a real giant step.

I was probably a little bit slower to develop. I was in Washington D. C. two or three times. I was there for the Martin Luther King rally, the march of Washington. And I was there a couple of times for various types of protest against the war, and I remember, we marched in the streets toward the White House, and the police started throwing tear gas. I was at the very end of that, so I didn’t get affected that greatly. It stunk, but I didn’t get that much because I was further removed in the area I was marching in from the area where the tear gas was being thrown. We just scattered. There was nobody who rushed the police, nobody was throwing rocks – it wasn’t violent. All the ones I was part of were like that. It was more of a moral statement.

If you had to draw a journey, I would say it started out as an individual expression, but then there were certain things that seemed like it was more than an individual expression. It was more like a national expression. We were doing it as individuals, but it seemed like there was this moral imperative out there that had to be changed.

I don’t think that I was outraged per se. I wasn’t happy with things. I felt more frustration than anything. It was like, here we are exposing this great truth, and you’re not listening. I’m not a violent person. I would never have retaliated. I never felt that. That’s one of the reasons I went to the Martin Luther King rally, because I felt so strongly about the approach he was taking. Here’s a guy who was getting jailed and getting rocks thrown at him and he didn’t retaliate with a fist. He retaliated with words. To be honest about it, I mean, maybe my upbringing was different from a lot of people, but those ideas were not foreign to me. I was raised with those ideas. And I’m Jewish, so being raised in a Jewish household, those ideas are part of that ethic.

Getting into doing marijuana and other things, really for me, it was more – I mean, it was nice, everybody was doing it – it dissolved these artificial barriers that society sets up for you, if you buy into it, they can get you uptight. And of course, one of the things was sexuality – everybody was exploring that. But there were other things also. For me, probably in graduate school, I did more experimentation – that was when I came to Arkansas. And that was more of a spiritual quest. Something was missing, and I tried to find it. That’s not the answer, you don’t find it in that, but sometimes doing some of those things, it breaks down some of your inhibitions and – I’ve even talking about self-inhibitions – it allows you to explore inner parts of yourself that maybe you would not have had the courage to do if that hadn’t been available.

I experimented with psychedelics, and I don’t know if I realized it at the time, but looking back, I know that part of my life was a spiritual exploration. And I continue to do that now. I think, once you’re on a spiritual path, you don’t stop. But it changed. The purpose of taking it, the object of taking it, the results of taking it changed from the mid ‘60s to the early ‘70s. For me, it was spiritual, which is obviously individual. And at a certain point in time, I just stopped. It was like, boom. Don’t need this anymore. I don’t know whether that’s because what happened was that there was a door unlocked and once it’s unlocked and you start down that road, you don’t need to unlock the door anymore – but to me, that’s sort of what it was. There was a time when I didn’t need it, didn’t want it. I think it was part of a journey of self discovery and spirituality.

I stayed here in the Ozarks because I liked the life. I’ve told people many times, you can live a very fast-paced hectic life right here in Fayetteville, but if you do it, you do it because you choose to do it, whereas back in New York, if you didn’t live a mile a minute, people right behind you would be running you over. And I didn’t need that. I never did. It’s interesting, because when I say I was brought up in New York, most people assume that’s a very fast-paced life. But when I was raised on Long Island growing up, six to eight, that age range, I only had two houses in a half-mile radius. When I came down here – a lot of time, when people move from big cities, at least in the past, it’s really tough to adjust. I didn’t have any problem adjusting. I always thought I was a country kid anyway. I always thought the place I would want to live would be a small town with a university. And it didn’t occur to me until a couple of years ago that that’s where I was.

There are wonderful people here and you can find wonderful people anywhere, you can find nasty people anywhere. That’s a part of it, but more than that, there’s the university, there’s continual intellectual stimulus of a university-type nature. But there’s these marvelous rivers and acres and acres of woods, nature surrounds you. I don’t like the development. It’s necessary, but.

As a kid, when I was upset, I would go for walks in the woods, and I would talk to the trees. I mean, I didn’t go up and shake hands, but I talked to whatever was out there. That was my way of communing with God. As a kid, before all the societal expectations and all the norms and parameters and strait jackets it puts on you, before that happens, as a kid, you’re much more pure, more innocent in your thought processes. You don’t think anything about going into the woods and talking because you think that’s where God is. For me, that’s where it always was. And I think the whole journey, taking the drugs – and I was never heavily into any of that scene – It’s funny, but what it does is it winds up putting you back into a state of mind that you’d been in when you were a kid. Kids know that God exists and kids’ lives are not empty, at least from my perspective. I mean, they may not have friends, there’s other things, but that’s not an emptiness they have to search for. Later, they start searching, in their late teens or early twenties, because it’s been beaten out of them. I think that all of the stuff our generation went through was an attempt to get back to more innocence, and all those things we used were just instruments to get it back.

I had never thought about politics until a friend of mine said they thought I would be a good candidate for serving on the __. I gave it some thought and thought, well, I think I’d like to do that. It was a way for me to have my voice heard and the ideas that I have heard. And you know, government is pretty simple. We may make it seem complicated, but it’s pretty simple. The people cast their ballot, elect who they’re going to elect, the people who are elected then go and try to represent their constituency as much as possible. But people are electing officials because of the ideas they espouse, at least, if they’re espousing any ideas. I understand that may be a little idealistic. Certainly, on a local level, you have the opportunity to ask people what they feel about various ideas. If you like his ideas, you vote for him.

I thought my ideas in general, my views of the world, the things I thought were important, I felt they should be represented. So I ran and was lucky enough to get elected. But I think what happens is – I was in real estate at the time, so a lot of the real estate community knew me. My ideas hadn’t changed, in terms of the environment, in terms of – I built this house here. When you build a house, you have to a least clear a space where the house goes. So there’s always this juggling act that you’re performing. But I never went in and bulldozed. As a matter of fact, we changed the position of the house in order to save trees. That’s my orientation. So like, you’re going to build – fine, build. But build in the context of nature and situate your house – no big deal to change a house a foot or two, so you’re protecting nature as much as possible. And I only say that because I was on the __ for one term, and of course during that term we had the incinerator debacle, and as strange as it may seem, as an environmentalist, I thought, from the info I had gathered, that that actually would be the better environmental alternative than what we were doing then and what we continue to do now. It may have been the lesser of many evils.

I’m very much in favor of helping the less fortunate, and I did start a program, with the help of R., called "You Can," where the city was funding scholarships for less fortunate individuals. And I tried to get them to commit to a five-year, fifty-thousand dollar program. They did commit to the idea but they only committed the funds for one year. After I was off the board, that fell apart. And I proposed the tree ordinance, which got really watered down by the time it got passed. And the reason I’m mentioning these things is that there’s no reason you can’t have economic development and build houses and still do it with regard to the natural surroundings. And the reason I mention those specific things is that when I ran for re-election, which I thought about not doing because of the political climate, because of the incinerator, and I knew it would be real tough. But I also felt that for all those people who voted for me, it would be unfair for me not to try. I had some of the people who elected me initially probably voted against me because they didn’t like the fact that I wrote the tree ordinance, that I was environmental. There were some people who didn’t like the fact that I wanted to try to create a fund to help poor people in the community.

I can even look back on that experience now and realize that everybody should serve in a political situation for a year or two. Once you’ve done it, you realize – when you sit in that seat, the power gets corrupting. If you don’t have that spiritual center – I mean, even just at a local level, you can find yourself not sticking to your convictions. You don’t want to lose your position of power.

I was not in favor of term limits because that’s what the voting public is supposed to do. So we’ve essentially said that we’re not intelligent enough to vote for the right people or get people out of office. So we’ve called ourselves dummies, essentially. However, the one thing that it does do is, if you know you’re only going to be there for six or eight years, or whatever, certainly at least in the last few years, you don’t have to worry about being re-elected. You don’t have to worry about losing a position of power. You would hope that would mean it would be easier to stand on your principles. But I think, probably, I fear, that people in the state house, when their time comes, they’ll try to move up to the state senate, because those people will be moving on as well. It may not be that way. Part of all this is that I don’t think that we as a population want to hear people who stick strongly to their convictions.

The ‘60s was an ‘other person’ orientation. It wasn’t a ‘me’ orientation. The times I grew up with all the counterculture stuff, it was like, our generation took a stance. The interesting thing is that it was generational, and that to me was really interesting. It was like we were all saying, here’s this idea – the idea is that you don’t care about just yourself, you care about other people as well. That might seem to be not a radical idea, but it was the way our society was behaving at the time. I’m not blaming society for that behavior. Most of my generation’s parents were hard working people who were trying to recover from the Depression, World War II, and the Korean War, and they wanted a better life for their children. They thought the best way to do that was to go out and work your buns off and make as much money as you can and not worry about other things. Worry about that first. And I think that’s good.

Our generation was an ‘other person’ generation, how can I help my fellow person, how can I go out into the world and help make the world a better place. So for me, those are the characteristics that I carry with me still. I went through that and I still try and do that. There obviously have been many generations that have come after us. They call them the X generation, the ‘me’ generation, or the ‘this’ generation. I don’t know why this is, but somehow, our generation created a stamp that is a recognizable, lasting stamp. These other generations haven’t really done that. It’s more of a temporary fad. And maybe they couldn’t after what we’ve done. I don’t know. It’s an interesting thing to me.

Our generation – I guess part of the reason was – it said look, these moral positions are not right. They should be this way. Maybe that’s judgmental on our part; obviously, it is. But if it didn’t strike a chord with the general populace, then we wouldn’t be talking today. Whatever assessment we said, whatever moral values we said were bad, whatever ones we espoused that were good, made a lasting impression. And I don’t see any generation take a big moral stance like that. Maybe that’s the difference. They wear nose rings, tongue rings, whatever, color their hair. And that’s fine. I’m not judging that negatively whatsoever. Whatever gets you through. Whatever allows you to find yourself.

There were world shaking events that happened during our generation, between ‘60 and ‘70. Both Kennedy assassinations, Martin Luther King’s assassination, the Vietnam war – it made it easier for us to express moral outrage and stay coalesced in that expression. There were events around which we could gather substance. We weren’t as cynical then. There were more wrongs that needed to be righted. There don’t seem to be as many wrongs that need to be righted. And that’s good. That’s wonderful. That’s what you work for. You can’t complain about that. But our generation – it filled our lives with purpose. For the generations that follow – I look at my kids – I have a 22-year-old girl and a 19-year-old boy. The girl – it seems she knows what she wants. The 19-year-old has no clue. For us that emptiness was filled in by this expression of outrage.
They know I experimented with drugs. They’re old enough now, so that if they asked me and wanted to know greater details, I would tell them. I don’t know that they’re aware of my work to right social wrongs. I’m not even sure they even care. Not that they don’t care. It’s just, all of those past experiences are who I am today. And who I was as their father. They look at me as who I am. They know I’m a staunch environmentalist. They know I care about trying to help other people. They know that if you’re totally in it for yourself, then that’s not a right attitude. They know I’m spiritual. All these things they know about me and see, and I think they accept – and accept for themselves as well. I see them as people who care about other people, people who are concerned about the environment.

My daughter hasn’t done drugs – maybe once. My son – yeah, he’s smoked marijuana probably since he was 14. I don’t think he does it very much anymore. At that age, recreational use is all it can be. In my opinion. Now over the next couple of years he may do what I did and use it to help in a spiritual quest and then all of a sudden, just boom, stop. But I don’t know that.

The world obviously still has problems. The problems change from generation to generation, and while the problems may not be as much with morality – there’s always going to be some of that. It may not be the moral abyss we felt we were going through in the ‘60s. I think you want your children to understand, at least from your perspective, to understand what you feel needs to be done. The environment still needs to be protected. I mean, we’re doing better, but for me the bottom line has always been, if you’ve got no environment, you got no business. So, it’s like, it’s not business comes first and then try to work the environment within a business and economic framework. I understand people have to make a living, and the economic engine has to continue to run. But the bottom line to me is that if you have no environment, there is no business, there’s no economic engine, there’s nothing.

The way our society works is, you instill it in your children. I instill it in my children, hopefully they instill it in their children and at some point in time, there are enough people who have that as a consciousness that – it’s like the hundredth monkey. Then the general consciousness is of that ilk. Then it gets done.

My kids are good kids. I think most people are good. You know, you wake up in the morning, you can frown or smile, be negative or positive. I chose to be positive. I don’t see the sense of being negative. That’s not to say I’m not negative at times and don’t have negative moments. We all do. But my general sense is positive.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Subject B and I sat in the study area of her modest home on a lushly gardened hillside.
Born 1947, mostly raised in CA.

I was at college in Ohio -- there was an SDS chapter forming, and I really didn’t know what that was, but I was interested. Someone I knew from class was involved in it. I just watched it, and there started to be some demonstrations against the Vietnam war - I went to them, but I wasn’t real active. I had been very conservative, from my family, but I thought it was interesting even tho I didn’t know quite what to think of it yet. That was my first awareness. It wasn’t until a few years later that I really became more involved. Any kind of protesting was something I’d never seen anyone do, or paid any attention, or thought about doing. I had never been anti- anything. It seemed like they might have a good point -- it took me awhile.

It was not until I moved back to California after I graduated from college that I started getting involved, going to demonstrations, getting information, helping with draft counseling. I helped by doing clerical work for a draft counseling group -- a local group in San Francisco. I attended some rallies, signed petitions, wrote letters. I was working full time in a regular job, so I didn’t have a whole lot of time to do that -- mostly weekends. It felt good to be working with people who had strong feelings, who believed in it. I can’t remember feeling totally outraged at that time, but I got more so as I got more information. I took their word for it. This is a dumb war and we shouldn’t be doing it. It wasn’t real personal -- I knew some people who got killed -- friends from my past. I heard about someone who had lived down the street getting killed, and that certainly was hard to imagine, these young guys that I remembered, thinking they had been killed. I participated in some of the giant marches in San Francisco. I was starting to change, trying to find my own way, but I was pretty used to just going along with everybody else. So I switched to going along with somebody who didn’t agree with the establishment, but it still wasn’t any big personal thing.

I went to graduate school and moved to Seattle, still thinking career. I was in social work - I was real frustrated with that. So I was going into planning, thinking that it would get more to the roots of things, although now I don’t think urban planning gets at the root. I didn’t stay very long in that school because I was very disillusioned by what I was being told. They were talking about things like citizen participation -- you have a meeting and you let people talk, and then you go ahead and do what you know is best. That was written out in journals -- I decided I didn’t want to be part of that. I was starting to see that the establishment was not so great in many ways. I also read a book at that time called the Greening of America, and it had a major impact on my life. I ended up moving to the country with a fellow dropout and a bunch of friends -- we bought some land in eastern Washington where it was cheaper, and where a lot of people were relocating because it was cheaper, and did a kind of communal farm thing. Still, drugs were not a major part, just a little here and there. I had been living in a house with a bunch of people, and a lot of them were very counter-cultural, a lot more than I was -- but then when I dropped out, they thought that was great.

About seven people were involved, although not all seven ever lived there together but for a few weeks at a time. There were about five of us who were more steady, and I was the more steady of those. Others were going back and forth to Seattle, getting jobs and that sort of thing. We lived in a line shack that had been there for cattle, for a guy to live in sometimes to watch the cattle - it was very rudimentary house. No electricity, no running water. No electricity in sight. You could live there the rest of your life and never get electricity there. No where near the line. Not that we cared. It was a very small, very funky house -- but comfortable. We liked it. We had a big garden, picked apples for extra money if we went down into the valley a little -- we learned a lot of things. I still feel it was one of the best times of my life, really, because I learned how to do a lot of things, chopped wood, I learned a lot about gardening, carpentry -- we did everything. We had a great spring nearby just a walk up the path -- we had a viable place, but very far out. Eventually I thought, well, it’s great to live out here, but I’m not doing anything for anybody else. I wanted to be involved in some of the political things that were going on, and I felt like that although from a personal standpoint I could have existed out there for quite a while, I felt I wasn’t connected or doing anything except for myself. I stayed out there about two and a half years. We had a cow, chickens, I had some sheep because I had been weaving -- I learned how to milk, how to take care of animals in cold weather -- one of the women who lived in the valley taught us what to do. I had always lived in huge cities, so it was a very different life. I found it very fulfilling -- canning, so forth. Home was life -- and I think that’s the kind of person I really was, so it really fit in well with my type of personality. I really got into it -- worked hard, but I enjoyed it. I felt like I was growing, but once I had grown to know how to do everything, it wasn’t enough.

From there I went back to Seattle and was still thinking about having a small farm or something, so I got a job to make money, saved money, lived in a wonderful household with seven adults - you cooked once a week, and you had the greatest meals, because if you only cook once a week, you have a lot of energy for what you cook. It was a very nice setting, and I worked for about a year and a half, and then moved to Arkansas because this guy I was kind of living with had been thru here a lot and kept saying, let’s move to Arkansas -- I was thinking in term of a land-based life --

So we moved here but never did buy any land as it worked out. We looked a lot. We stayed in town, and ended getting involved in lots of politics -- environmental, peace, anti-nuclear. I wasn’t sure I wanted to grow things for a living, because I’d become aware of how much work it is. As I became more aware, I didn’t know if I was really cut out for that. What I really got involved with first was women’s issues -- there was the women’s center at the university - -they had a house -- and I worked at the food coop, so I met people through that. And so I got involved in the woman’s health, self-help group, pregnancy counseling, abortion rights -- I worked on that a lot. Got involved in a health collective that worked out of the women’s center -- we tried to educate women to do their own exams, monitor their cervical health, breast exams -- tried to help with doctor referrals so people would know who was a good doctor who would be respectful and competent. We wanted to start a woman’s run clinic. I spent three months in Iowa learning from an Emma Goldman clinic there -- we hoped to start that here but we never quite pulled that off. There was no funding. Somehow the group didn’t have the right mix to make it happen. We really didn’t have a doctor who would work with us. Anyway, that whole women’s movement was my first big involvement. Then the university gradually moved away from sponsoring this radical group of women who mostly weren’t even students.

Then I got involved when they wanted to build that nuclear plant just across the border in Oklahoma -- Black Fox -- probably my first environmental thing. I was really involved in that a lot. I called the first meeting, helped run it. Somehow we had been in contact with Carrie Dickerson, who had started the protest in Oklahoma -- and we were a support group here to try to get help for her. There were lots of people involved in that, it was something that hit, that people were interested in stopping -- and it did get stopped, which was rewarding. This was a proposed nuclear power plant that was close enough and with the wind pattern, it would have impacted our area. We had petitions, had meetings, tried to get more people, we did demonstrations and attended hearings, government hearings, and a lot of time, we just tried to raise money to send to Carrie, because she was doing the legal stuff, fighting the hearings battles, getting expert witnesses. A lot of what we did was benefits to raise money for whatever was needed.

We also got involved in Arkansas Nuclear I then -- the whole nuclear energy thing, the more you read about it, the more scary it was and is -- so we also went down and demonstrated at Russellville at Arkansas Nuclear I. There was a group that we helped get going that had local people from around that plant, and they were very interested in trying to shut it down, which of course never happened, but it raised the awareness level -- the ongoing health problems of low level emissions -- there was information from a farmer who lived near there. He had cows born with two heads or things missing. Their land was being affected by it -- their peach trees were dying, things like that. And the water -- the storage of waste is still a big problem. That particular reactor has a big crack -- it’s a certain kind that’s been proven to be a very bad design - very dangerous, not so much that it would explode, but that it could leak a lot of stuff out. It’s had a lot of violations -- it’s a pretty bad reactor, but it’s still going.

Those things -- you get to an energy level and you fight for awhile, but then when nothing happens, it’s really hard to sustain forever. The local people in that area were getting a lot of flack, and this one man had a store and he was told -- we’ll shut you down, we’ll boycott you if you don’t stop being against this thing. And he backed off because he couldn’t afford to lose his livelihood. And the man who had the cows and peach trees was found dead in a canal -- in a discharge canal where they said he was fishing, but his wife said he couldn’t fish there, he wouldn’t touch that water with a ten foot pole. He supposedly slipped into this canal and was killed -- very suspicious. There were big stakes there, and I’m quite sure he was murdered. Some national people looked into it, but I guess they could never prove it. It was like a Karen Silkwood thing.

Then I got involved in the Kerr-McGee plant in Oklahoma, and it was eventually shut down. The things they were doing were so horrible -- they had a big leak that was affecting groundwater and they were spraying stuff on fields and then cutting the hay and shipping it out to the Navaho reservation -- they were very anti-Native American or at least they didn’t care -- it was like, oh well, we can do whatever we want, it doesn’t matter - almost like, nobody lives here. It was dangerous to feed that to cows -- it was radioactive. Apparently, some nuclear wastes do make things grow -- maybe things grow better than normal, but a lot of it’s abnormal growth.

The Black Fox thing was the beginning of our local peace and justice center -- we needed a place to do stuff. We started the center to have a place to meet, a place to work, type a newsletter, fold it, etc. The environmental work was ongoing, although it was getting harder. It became obvious that we weren’t going to be able to close down Arkansas Nuclear I, especially from here, and the group down there was having too many problems.

We got involved in the Central American -- Nicaragua, Sandinista -- that was probably the most locally colorful thing. We had a lot of demonstrations at the federal building about that, had processions with caskets, tried to make a public statement, get publicity -- so that people would be aware that there were people who didn’t agree with this policy. The Sandinistas were trying to overthrow a US-backed regime that had been in place a long time. Samosa was the dictator. More people were getting poorer, and a few were getting richer -- the classic central american dictatorship model. And the US government had pretty much installed it and supported it, and the government was sending weapons to fight the Sandinistas. We thought we should be supporting the Sandinistas, that if you have to have a war, they were the ones who needed our help. Or at least, they needed us to not be providing guns to the other side. They wanted to do land reform. The government view was that the Sandinistas were communists -- and I’m sure some of them were, but it wasn’t a communist thing. It was more a socialist thing, trying to turn the land back to people and develop cooperatives and help provide government services for the people, like raise the literacy rate. And here our government was sending guns and lots of them, and some troops -- to help the Samosa government. Our government was actively doing exactly the opposite of what we thought they should be doing. Some of us got involved in tax evasion to protest - I personally didn’t make enough money, but then that was one approach -- to not make enough money so that you didn’t contribute support to the war.

Reagan illegally channeled guns to Samosa -- the money hadn’t been approved -- he did what he could and used discretionary money. The story I’ve heard is that Reagan aides brought drugs from Central America, sold them in the US, bought guns with the money, and sent guns back on the same planes. The Iran-Contra affair also grew out of this situation. There were a lot of those ‘things you wouldn’t expect your government to be doing’ type things going on. I’ve always been basically a naive person, thinking oh, it can’t be that bad, and then you find out, like the more you dig, the more you find out -- it can be incredible what the government will stoop to. Like that urban planning thing -- yeah, let them say what they want -- we’ll go do what we think is right. Even the congress which represents the people, even that, they don’t honor, flawed as that is. I mean, I certainly don’t think they represent me. CIA and all those agencies do a lot of stuff we never know about.

I became more skeptical, although I still vote and think it’s important to try to do what you can with the system, and then do what you can about the system. I feel right now I’m not doing anything much that way -- kind of a lull. I gave a lot of time. I was doing stuff for the community -world, whatever -- plus I had kids along the way, kind of packed them along and did things.
But then, the money thing is always there. I needed to get a ‘real’ job again. Right now, although my new job is like a social [reform] thing, because I’m a teacher and I feel like I’m doing good work with that. So I don’t feel totally guilty about doing it. Sometimes I get involved -- I’ve been involved in the city garbage thing lately, where you pay by the bag. I remember thinking we should have been doing that all along -- I couldn’t believe they were having trouble doing it. So I started going to the meetings and applied for a seat on the environmental concerns committee, although I don’t know yet if I’m going to be on it or not. Just to say, if you need me, I’ll do it. If you don’t that fine. Anything that affects the local area, I think I’d get involved. I’m less likely to get involved in international scene -- it seemed after awhile that mainly all you do is call attention to it. And that’s good, but it’s not very rewarding -- you don’t know if it made any difference or not. You do that, have the demonstration, hold the press conference -- same old thing after you do it a hundred times. I like the idea of a local issue better. Hopefully, you’re trying to get something to happen or stop something from happening, see it through, keep on working at it -- it’s within your grasp. There are so many things happening all over the world that are so awful, it’s like I’m sorry, I can’t do anything to help. I do a little with Ox-Fam America, a pledge amount each month that comes out of my bank account.

My children have seen that I care about these issues, and that’s about all I can do, I guess. Later on, I believe they’ll tend to get involved in things that affect them, at least. They’re both young -- kind of unconnected to any of that right now. But then, I never did much until I was out of college, so I feel hopeful for them. One time when I was in college -- and I was a ‘good’ girl, never caused any trouble, always went along with everybody’s program -- but there was one time when I got really mad. They wanted to have a house floor meeting, and they were going to have it really late because some people were going to a play. I wanted to go to bed, and I really got outraged that you had to come to this thing and it was going to be so late, and I decided I wasn’t going to do it. I went to bed. They woke me, and I said I wasn’t going. So they had this whole thing, where I had to go see this lady because I had done something ‘bad’ and I remember another woman who had done the same thing, and we both had to go there, and we had meetings to go to for punishment -- I wrote in my dairy -- ‘maybe I’m becoming a rebel.’ That was my little stand, that this was dumb, this doesn’t make sense, and I’m not going to do, I don’t care what you say, I’m not going to do it -- and that was very new for me, it’s not how I was raised, and not how I conducted my life. That was a little beginning of the anti-establishment for me. I discovered you could rebel and still live.

When I lived in San Francisco, a year after college, I moved into an apartment with a woman and there was some whole wheat flour left over from her last roommate and I made bread, which was the first time I ever had whole wheat bread, handmade, and it was good! Then after I moved to Seattle, I traveled to see my parents in Florida, hitchhiking, taking buses -- I was in a bus station in Florida waiting to go my parents’ house, and I didn’t have anything to read, and I looked through the paperback rack, and Diet for a Small Planet was on there. For some reason, I looked at that and thought it looked interesting. I think it was the front part that interested me, talking about how if we all ate lower on the food chain, the whole economic problem could be solved -- not only would be healthier, there would be more to go around. So I read it and became very interested in what it had to say about eating less meat so that -- not so much a health thing as a political thing -- that you could just eat the grain that the cows eat and have a lot left -- I liked the idea. When I went back to Seattle, I convinced a friend to eat like that, even tho she had a freezer full of meat. We started making some of the recipes, and we loved it. We liked how it tasted.

At that point, it wasn’t so much organic as it was just not so much meat. I kept on enjoying eating that way -- I’m not a vegetarian. But I’ve been basically a vegetarian for 25 years. People ask me why I am, and my reason is always the Diet for a Small Planet idea -- that we’re consuming to much. All the fertilizers, all the things that go into it -- we’re such hogs on so many things. But then, further down the road, I became aware of the organic idea, certainly better not to have pesticides on the food if you can help it. I have a garden and a greenhouse, so I was able to feed my kids very well. My daughter didn’t have any meat for a long time -- I remember when she was playing softball, and the team was having a cookout, and we didn’t want her to have hotdogs, so we had these tofu hotdogs and the cook worked with us, and we got them on the grill and got them to her and nobody had to know the difference. I used to use this baby food grinder and grind up all these good things together to feed them -- I nursed them a long time. They don’t have any allergies. They never had dairy products until much later. We got raw milk -- we were always trying to get good stuff. But then of course when they got older they rejected all that, they wanted the stuff from the store in the carton.

I don’t practice anything, but I have gone to a couple of silent meditation retreats. I wouldn’t say I have a Buddhist leaning, but I enjoy the idea of silence and nature and quieting the mind. I have meditated at various points in my life, but it’s not something I ever did every day. I see the value of it. I walk four miles a day, and I think of that as meditation. I don’t listen to the little tapes -- I’m just out there, go to the park -- take the dogs -- it’s my own type of meditation, a real break in the day, a physical thing -- and it’s in nature. I love to hike, sit by water, a creek - a feel like I have a nature based religion, but it’s not like a real religion. Nature is where I feel close to what made all this -- and what I value. When I look around at a city or town, I’m often repulsed at what I see. I mean, I appreciate a beautiful house or garden or flower, but the strips, it’s like, what have we done. It seems so ugly, if I actually pause to think about it, which I try not to do, since I don’t want to get depressed about it. But when I’m out in nature, it’s like, this is what it’s all about, really. It makes sense to me. It puts me into a calm state. It’s like, ok, it’s all worth it, this is all here, still going. It’s more a pervasive consciousness rather than a thing I do. I know there has to be a higher power up there somewhere, but I don’t have a picture or a name for it. The ‘what is’ is there.

I want to protect nature, make sure some of it is still there, that we don’t just ruin everything. We’ve ruined so many things. Sometimes I do get very out of sorts about the whole thing -- I mean, what is the point? What have we done? We’ve built up all this stuff that -- and yes, I get a certain amount of satisfaction out of it like most people do, but I think I could live without it -- all the stuff that we think we need -- I have a lot of stuff, and I like my stuff, but when I think about what all the manufacturing and everything has done to the earth, sometimes I think we’d be better off to go back. I’m very resistant to the new things that come along - maybe I’m stubborn about it as a way to be, but it seems like well, you didn’t have to have it before, but suddenly now everybody has to have it. I’ve been told I should have air conditioning, and it’s like, why do I need that? I’ve lived this long without it, why do it need it now? I mean, yes, I see the convenience, the benefit, the reason it’s been created -- they provide a service. But it’s another monthly payment. And that’s why everyone is working like crazy, because they’re all caught up in these things they think they have to have to survive. Survival got lost a long time ago, we’re way way past survival. It’s like you have all things you have to maintain, they break, I can only deal with so much of that. I want as little of that as possible. I recently bought another ceiling fan, and I was thinking, now I’ll have to pay someone to put this up because I’ve never put up a ceiling fan, and I started looking at the instructions, and in the end, I was able to put it up, no problem. I had taken a class on electricity in the past, in a time when I wanted to learn every single thing that I could.

Sunday, July 8, 2007


Interviewed on a lunch break at his work place where he was setting up a Saturday job.

I can remember seeing Elvis Presley on Ed Sullivan. He had a presence about him that was from ‘somewhere else.’ It was certainly my first inoculation into rock and roll, which I think was kind of an accelerant to the ‘60s culture. The Beatles – I still to this day blame the Beatles for everything. Without question. I believe I was in 5th grade when they came out. Me and [some other guys] put on Beatle wigs and makeup and did a concert at Washington Elementary and girls faked like they were fainting. We were really singing into a mike, singing along with the record player, and the drummer was really drumming. He said you couldn’t fake the drums. And I started guitar lessons as soon as the Beatles hit. I was in a rock and roll band by the time I was in 7th grade, and continued that all the way through college.

I’ve got to say that the music scene was where it hit for me. I mean, I was attracted to music early, but as far as the 60s go, I was neck deep in the music side of it. I honestly believe the music drove that culture pretty heavily. People gathered to hear music, people put the 8-track cartridges in their cars, bought albums as soon as they came out. It was a measure of where you were in the culture. There were different flavors of music, different veins, and the rock and roll thing and the psychedelic things and later on the pop thing, it all started pretty much with the Beatles.

First of all, the look was there. The Beatle haircut determined where you were, I mean, the length of your hair. There was a huge crisis about bangs. Yeah, I blame the Beatles. It’s their fault. I still have a Beatle mania. I’ve never recovered. I’ve been to many recovery programs. You can’t help me.

Of course [as far as politics go] I’ve been involved personally in a family way with politics since junior high school. Actually going door to door, putting bumper stickers on cars, handing out literature and propaganda, doing barbeques and catfish fries and town hall meetings, stuff on the courthouse steps all over the state. I rarely did any protests. I was in the middle of politics and fortunately I felt like we were all on the right side of the fence. We were all pretty liberal. My entire family was very tolerant of the ‘60s culture.

I worried about getting drafted for a few months before the lottery. I was naive enough to believe that good things would happen to me because I was basically a good guy. So I didn’t worry about it too much. And then when my number was like 250 or 275, it was off the scale as far as there being any danger, so it was the luck of the draw for me on that, that I didn’t have to face it.

The drug culture was intertwined with the music business pretty heavily, so I was aware of it early. Some of the more famous acts at the local clubs were known to have brought some stuff that they were traveling with – mini-whites, truck driver stuff. One of the guys that I worked with – a rock and roll star – claimed that back then even in the early ‘60s that cocaine was $100 for a kilo and nobody really cared that much about it, even though it was available. I don’t know about the pot.

I say this to my children, and I honestly believe it – I probably wasted a lot of time I didn’t need to waste messing around with drugs. I was a funny guy, a good guy, a typical young hellion, but I often think that if I had to do it over again, I probably wouldn’t have engaged as heavily as I did in the drug world. Then again, I was young and didn’t have responsibilities. It was something that was going on, and it was exciting because it did change the way you look at things. It mostly made you excited in a cerebral way. It would depend on the drug at hand, and the time and the circumstances that you had chosen to place yourself in. For the most part, it was something to look forward to and there was a kind of ‘getting away with it’ mystique about it.

I do think that it was pretty much a negative. I can’t say that I wouldn’t have evolved in my line of thought any differently. I’m not sure that I would have. I look at what I could have been doing, what I could have been working on, what I could have been excited about, and I find many more things to be excited about now than drugs. I feel like at the 45 mark you start feeling an urgency about the amount of time that you have to do things, and you’re a little more particular about what you do with your time. For me, I feel much more uncomfortable not getting something done with my time. Back in my teenage years and early twenties, even into my thirties, a waste of time was not a waste of time [to me]. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

There’s no question that there was an alteration of reality in every instance, with everything I ever ingested. And there was an excitement about it. But as far as it being really illuminating, I’m not sure it really did that for me. I felt unquestionably illuminated during the experience, but being able to maintain that and to rechart the path that one experienced while under the influence was [not possible]. It just slipped away. It was kind of a window, a window that you hadn’t seen out of before, but once the experience was over, that beautiful window was a little more drab and not nearly as spectacular. I’ve thought that it just cranks up the watts of what’s going on inside you anyway. I mean, we all determine what we think is a clear thing for us to do, and we live that without thinking about it every day. The drugs were kind of a detour that involved higher wattage. A long way around to where you were to begin with.

I saw people hurt and crippled and dead from drug experiences. As the revolution continued, there were martyrs and sacrifices made by people that we all looked up to or followed. There was a point at which it was no longer beneficial. That's because it is its own entity, less of you, and less help to you.

I think we were very lucky to get away with it. Most of us. I don’t think you could do the same sort of things that we did back then, now. I think, first of all, you’d probably die of AIDS. Promiscuity, needles, all that. It was pretty prolific for me. Cocaine, heroin. Heroin is the best drug, by far, of any of them. It’s such a fine drug. Just a little tiny bit was a wonderful thing. I know many people who feel the same way about that, that of all the drugs, it’s by far the choice. With any of these drugs, if you allow it, they become the entity, rather than you experiencing the drug, the drug is experiencing you.

I enjoyed the drugs more than I did the alcohol. Cocaine is probably the worst for grabbing hold of people and me included. I saw a lot of people go away or ruin themselves because of it. These were people who were intelligent, beautiful, wonderful in company, conversationalists, contributing to the community. Now they’re not there anymore. They’re gone. And even those who survived are damaged. It’s real hard for me to recommend to anyone to go to drugs to get a broader view and a more rounded education of life.

Where back in late high school and college, one of the pluses on this thing was the mind expanding thing and taking a ‘trip.’ It was an experience thing. Now I don’t see that with people who are involved in the drug culture. It seems to be more of a six-pack attitude. It’s not a spiritual thing. I don’t know if reality made it that, where it’s no longer an enlightening thing, or what. I just don’t see that spirit. I think people acknowledge that there is something else going on, yeah, you could probably get glimpses of [spiritual enlightenment] through drug use, but I think the universe, the default sophistication now, is that all this [spiritual enlightenment] is available to us at any time at any moment that we chose to tap into it and it doesn’t take anyone or anything else to get you there. And I’m not so sure that wouldn’t have happened anyway.
I suspect that I’d be just as funny and just as smart and just as knowledgeable as I am now had I not gone through that. If nothing else, it may have dulled my capacities. It definitely cost me physical capabilities.

On the other hand, even though I couldn’t recommend any of what I’ve done to anyone else, I believe that all this shit should be decriminalized. I do think it’s a stupid waste of time, it’s left over from who knows when – prohibition stuff. I think part of the problem with the drug scene is the environment it’s been placed in. I do still believe that the pot thing is better than the alcohol thing. I don’t know that it really is, but I still prefer that. I’ve seen so many people hurt other people and get out of control and lose it and not know where they are on alcohol. You don’t get that fucked up on marijuana. If pot smoking was as widespread as alcohol is, openly, I may feel differently about it. There may be something about the pot thing, because it is suppressed, that it remains relatively hidden and a very private thing that makes it more attractive, because it’s not out there and you don’t have to deal with it. It’s rare when someone gets busted for driving under the influence of marijuana.

As far as my professional life goes, I’m still in the thick of all this stuff. I’m still heavily involved in the music business. I’m basically in the production business, and I produce many things now, not just music things – broadcast and theater. I like my job. I love this stuff. I wear many different hats. People bring things to me and I make their productions sound and look better. The audience is able to enjoy themselves more. I’ve gotten to a point where at times it’s for millions of people. At other times it’s for a few dozen. Really, I enjoy both extremes. It’s pretty rewarding. I do travel quite a bit.

I think the quality of life here is as fine as anywhere on the planet. Without question. I am a river guy. I like all the rivers that are around here. The air is still relatively clear here. I mean, compared to other places I’ve gone to work, other places I’ve traveled to, this is just a beautiful spot. There’s not much that I don’t like about it. I can remember when Fayetteville had 15,000 people. I don’t like the population explosion or any of that, but it’s really happening everywhere. It’s not just a local issue, it’s a global issue. Every community is experiencing this stuff. Maybe ours is a bit accelerated over others. I think also that the reason Fayetteville and this corridor is growing so fast is because people hear about it, come and see it, and sense it too, sense that there’s still pockets and hollers here you can set yourself up in, and be yourself.

Getting out on the river for me is probably my therapy. I prefer to be in the river. Usually, I’m in a tube that has a seat in it and I move with the water. I will canoe and boat and all that stuff, if I need to, but usually I like to actually physically be in the river, letting it carry me at its own pace. I generally try to do it where I don’t see anyone up or down river. It’s kind of a solitude thing. I am into sound, so I’m enthralled with the sounds that are silent. I fish. It’s not so much that I like fish. I certainly don’t eat much fish. I never keep anything I catch. But there is something about interacting with the fish that I like. It’s neat. We were in the country every weekend all through my life [as a child]. We had a cabin on the river by the time I was in junior high and I probably learned most of my river abilities there. Since that time, I go to the river whenever possible. It’s not very possible very much any more. I work a lot on weekends and it’s hard to get away in the middle of the week.

I suspect that will change. I suspect that I will probably buy a piece of the river and move to it soon. I’ve gotten to a point now where I have enough responsibility to really do whatever it is I really want to do. I have been tied to a nine-to-five for a decade now. There are deadlines. Excellence is expected.

Now I’m even more heavily involved with design. I do a lot of collaboration with architects and engineers now. We send blueprints back and forth. I’m getting into the building of things now, sound systems for theaters, auditoriums. I consult on acoustic design. That stuff is pretty rewarding. I’m going to start teaching next semester, sound design for theater, which I think is the most exciting sound field there is, really. It’s quite tricky, quite sophisticated and hard to do well. It’s the most challenging sound that I do.

What’s great is that my children listen to the same music I listened to when I was their age, which is different. The music that grabbed me in our young days was different from our parents. I find that all that music stuff is still valid, still listened to, still commercialized, and my children prefer it. It tells me there was substance to what was going on, that there is longevity there, and it was not just a stupid thing. It was a smart thing, we were tuned into it. Some of the culture has definitely stood the test of time, and there’s no way I can say that I went through that culture and didn’t carry some of it with me to this day.

Maybe tolerance is probably the greatest lesson from that culture. Being able to accommodate all different kinds of people and things. It was a personal thing. As long as you weren’t hurting anything else, it was an OK thing. Even my mother would tell me, as long as you’re not hurting someone else. She would add things like, never do anything you wouldn’t want everyone in the world to know you were doing, you know, which was hard to get around. Tolerance, and a sensitivity to the welfare of others. I was never vicious or malicious or anything to begin with – I do think maybe the culture challenged that in that it offered many opportunities for me to apply that tolerance. I was very heavily involved with nature, and anything that messed it up, I was quick to say, no, you don’t want to do that. But never an activist. Just recognized early the value of a healthy environment. I’d seen where people had clear cut, or dumped trash – even out here in these pristine ancient mountains you would find trash. No roads or anything. People have been everywhere. Being the Boy Scout I was, I bought the program to believe that you should leave the place in better shape than you found it.

I think the counterculture thing – it happened at a time in my life where I was going to be enlightened anyway. I was leaving home, growing up, becoming a man. I was going to make my own decisions anyway. It just happened to coincide with that change in my life. There was shit going on. I was an unusual case I think. I was in a rock and roll band, my hair long, I was captain of the football team, manager for the debate squad. I could talk around an issue. I bought the football team program. I was a head hunter. I enjoyed the contact, I hurt people. At the time, football was king. We had a great team. We were undefeated going into our senior year. We just ate it up. It was fun. I’m sure there was a macho thing about it.

The drug thing entered in football season during my senior year. My first experience was with Yellow Submarine at a drive-in theater, and the next morning I was on a bus going to Missouri to play a football game that afternoon. It was great. We always graded films [of our game] after a game, and the theory was that if you get your job done fifty percent of the time, fifty percent is a C. After that game, I scored like 96%. I led the team in return average yardage for the rest of the year, because I returned the opening kickoff and was still high as a kite. I was young. I could do that kind of stuff.

Sunday, July 1, 2007


The subject K. and I sat at her kitchen table, a breeze redolent of ripe tomatoes and new hay wafting through her open windows on a late afternoon June breeze. Outside, her rooster crowed and hens clucked, and a newly adopted kitten soon appeared for a treat of half-and-half. Born 1943, raised in Iowa.

I hadn’t thought about the Sixties as being a particular mind set or period of revolution. I didn’t get involved in a lot of the protests, but I was in the Peace Corps. A few years ago I was in this Extensive Service leadership training class for serving the rural community, and they showed a video about paradigm shifts, and I think people who were in the ‘60s were on one of the films we saw. It showed how different time periods affected people’s life view, or world view. The ‘60s, at least part of it -- the early part -- was a bridge between the ‘50s and earlier, where women especially saw their roles as the housewife, and then beyond that, it’s different. That period of time when I was in college, and a young adult, was that transition period.

My mom’s family put a very high value on education. My parents weren’t active on issues, but they talked. Dad talked about soil and water conservation. He had a farm, and then about the time I got into high school, my mom and dad decided they needed more money, so he got a job in town in social services as a caseworker. And my mom, because she grew up in such poverty, she was sensitive to social issues, like people treating each other fairly. She was real concerned about that.

My dad was born in the house that I grew up in. His father had immigrated from Switzerland and bought that farm. Dad was the only surviving son, and it was expected that he take care of that farm, and I don’t think he was ever happy farming. It was hard to make a living. We changed from Methodist to Presbyterian sometime when I was in grade school, junior high or something. The churches were in the same block. Dad was easily pissed off by all sorts of people. He was critical of everybody, including us kids. He was never dedicated to the church -- it was something that was expected. I think one of the reasons he didn’t enjoy going to church was because we weren’t well dressed. Later, when he was working in town and had good clothes, he didn’t seem to mind going to church. Anyway, somewhere along in junior high I decided I was going to be a missionary. I felt called, saw some clouds form that looked like the continent of Africa. Sometime in high school, I was sitting next to a guy who said, well, what do you really believe? And I started thinking about it, and a lot of things I’d been taught I didn’t feel very comfortable about, and from then on, I sort of tapered off about church stuff and other traditional Christian thought and beliefs. But I still felt like I should do something that was good for the world.

I started college in fall ‘61, which I think was the year the Peace Corps started. A group was training for it on campus and they were so enthusiastic, the idea of going to live in some other part of the world was interesting, and I knew it would be helping somebody which felt right, so I applied and was accepted, and that experience more than anything changed my world. I went to a Turkish village. Our project was community development. You stick a pair of people in their 20s that can barely speak the language into a traditional village and tell them to work on the social and economic development, and it was like, duh... [laugh] -- so I had a degree in home economics -- a Turkish girls’ course teacher came in and I helped her a little bit, taught a little sewing and things like that. Mainly we – just by being there – changed people’s attitudes a little bit, and were sort of a catalyst for things coming into the village because we were Americans. There were a couple of Turkish agricultural engineers who came in to visit the village who had been in the states for a short time and spoke a little English -- and they said, hey look there’s wild strawberries growing along this road -- this would be a great place to introduce domesticated strawberries as a cash crop. This one family that was real close to us said, ok, you can plant some in our garden here. After the strawberries started bearing, and they were eating them, this one young man in the family said, well, that was a good idea. We thought it was a silly idea, but we did it just because we wanted to help you, because you wanted to do it, you’re our friends. I went back to visit about eight years later, and there were people all over that village growing strawberries and selling them, and they were also growing poplar trees, or some fast growing soft wood trees that they could use to make boxes, strawberry boxes. The other thing that changed was -- when I went in there, I was advised to buy a small bottled gas stove, which was handy and quick and clean, but all the other women in the village were using wood fires, either in a fire place or in a little metal stove. But when I went back, almost all the women had the little gas stoves.

When I came back from Turkey, it was miniskirt time, and I looked at those bare legs and gasped, because the women in Turkey are all covered up -- not like in Iran or anything, but skirts that came below the knee, stockings, and they covered their hair. So I was surprised by the short skirts. But the other thing was all the waste, and that still stays with me. In the Turkish village, people didn’t waste anything. At the little general store, they had groceries and matches and school notebooks, oil, flour, sugar, things like that. And the baker made bread that most people would just stick under their arm, no wrap or anything, and walk home. (That was a real treat, to buy white bread -- many people couldn't afford to buy it.) But when I went to the bakery, he would wrap it in newspaper, because I was a special person. They didn’t waste anything. But when I came back to the U. S., it was toss, toss -- all the stuff we tossed, they would have found a use for. It made me angry, and frustrated.

I came back to Iowa and looked for a job, and got a job at the welfare office. After six months, they said you’re not the person we want, bye -- I wasn’t good at it -- I couldn’t see what the problem was with all these folks. I’d go visit them, and they had a television, a car, electricity, running water -- what’s your problem? And I just wasn’t trained for the job, and they didn’t work with me to train me, and I never was good at writing reports, and that was probably the worst thing, having to write up the stuff in a timely way.

I lived in Canada for awhile. One of my jobs there was testing water, doing an analysis to see if it was clean enough -- a university lab -- and so when I got back to Iowa, I found a job at a packing plant doing wastewater analysis.

I never lived any way but the straight life. While I was in Turkey, at the capitol city at some kind of Peace Corps gathering -- we had an office party, with a big water cooler full of vodka and orange juice -- big party, lots of fun. The group I worked with in social services enjoyed drinking, but I never experienced marijuana until I was in graduate school in the early ‘80s.

During Vietnam, I thought draft dodging was right. I never thought the war was right. Women’s issues - the ERA -- I was sympathetic. I joined the American Association of University Women -- some were real pushers for change. One of our study topics was women as agents of change --- in 1973, I was fed up with working in the packing plant. They hired young men to work the same job in the laboratory. I had learned everything I needed to know about the chemical analysis of the water, the meat products and the by-products, and they hired young fellows to work in there, and I helped train them, but they paid them more than they paid me. So I got fed up with that, and decided to quit, and so they asked on the exit interview, well, why are you quitting, so I told the personnel manager, I’m not getting equal pay for equal work. I should be getting more -- I’m training these guys. He says, "Well, we can’t pay women as much as we pay men -- like Rita out there, she’s doing accounting, but we can’t pay her like an accountant, because she might get pregnant and quit." I did file suit and won some back pay. It was the principle of it.

So I told the man I was dating that I was quitting, and that I had saved up enough to go back to college or buy a piece of land and try market gardening, and that was what I’d really like to do, and he didn’t want me to leave. We had been friends for five years. We bought an 8-acre place and started remodeling the house, and I planted a garden, and we had chickens, a couple of calves, some bottle fed lambs, various stuff. I felt like it was silly for him to be doing all this work on the place and not living there too, so I pushed the issue and we got married. Then he sold a property in town and had some money he needed to invest, so we bought a 100-acre farm and sold the 8 acres. By that time I was feeling like we couldn’t talk about issues, because whatever we didn’t agree on, he’d say I was getting a little carried away and would hide behind a newspaper. So I started looking for other companions.

Before we married, we were pretty spontaneous about our sex life, but as soon as we were married, he would say, like, we shouldn’t do that now, somebody might stop by. It was like I became a mother figure or something. Our sexual relationship tapered off. I was just 30, still interested. I started looking for intellectual, emotional, and physical companionship. I made me sort of deceitful. I decided that wasn’t what I wanted, so I left.

Going back to college was a graceful excuse. I still appreciated him as a good person and friend. I moved into the older student graduate dorm. In a lot of ways it felt wonderful. I was so unencumbered, and there were all kinds of people to talk to. At first, I thought I’d go into nutrition, with the idea of helping the world somehow. Working on malnutrition in the developing world. But then I decided I’d probably end up being a dietician in a hospital or something which wasn’t appealing to me. I wanted to be out in the field. I was concerned with doing something that would help people.

I went to a mid-life career changes workshop and the person who put it on had us do this visioning thing, and so then I changed to horticulture. My interest was in fruit and vegetable production as a small farm opportunity. It seemed like there was a possibility of making a good income from that. That’s what I’m trying now. It’s a lot of hard work for the hours a person puts in -- and pays at minus a dollar an hour? I think that as a person works through and becomes more efficient and works out the marketing, there are possibilities to make a fair income. I like it, it’s outside.

I think my folks had something to do with the fact that I don’t buy into the mainstream materialism. They didn’t have the means to spend. They had an old car, and they said it -- dad had a term for it -- rather than having a new car as a status symbol, an old car is a symbol that we don’t have to have a new car -- like an anti-status symbol. Truth was they wouldn’t have been able to buy a new car.

After I finished my master’s I worked in Iowa for USDA doing field research for a few years -- I was living like a student, sharing a house with four other people -- I rode a bike. I might have stayed, but my supervisor had harassed me -- in fact, someone else filed suit for sexual harassment -- the working situation wasn’t good at all. I got a call about an opening with an Indian tribe in Kansas for a project manager there -- they had a grant to start vegetable production on tribal land. They offered me a big increase in salary and it was just exactly what I wanted to do -- so I took the job -- fall of ‘85. I worked with them for a little over a year -- the grant was for one year. During that time, there was a new tribal council elected, which led to a lot of upheaval. They had no idea that vegetable production and marketing takes a lot more labor than growing soybeans. We had started with 10 acres, and it was all mapped out what we were supposed to plant - this many tomatoes, this many watermelon. We didn’t plant it all, and we couldn’t pick and market all that we did have planted. But we set up a roadside stand and sold to some restaurants, and we were coming along, learning how to operate the equipment. But in order to do this another year, they would need another grant, but in order to get another grant, we needed to expand. The council said they wanted me to write a proposal and show that we would expand to 30 acres -- and I thought, oh god -- but I wrote up the proposal and made all the plans, and we got funding for another year, but I didn’t want to stay. I knew it was doomed. We couldn’t manage ten. I thought we should go down to 5 acres. And they said, couldn’t I just stay until things were planted -- so that’s the easy part, so I stayed until the end of June and then I left.

I learned about this project down in Fox, Arkansas, at Meadowcreek. There was a 10-week internship in sustainable agriculture and farm design ---- and I had enough saved. I had been earning a lot of money, and it was easy to start slipping into a lifestyle that I didn’t feel comfortable with, and I saw Meadowcreek as a way to get my mind back where I wanted it to be. There were seven of us interns. We had discussions and lectures and projects we worked on.

I must have been somehow biased against chemical use to begin with, and then the Meadowcreek experience -- I knew people should be careful with chemicals, but there were times when I used them. I knew there were people involved with the environmental movement. And dad always talked about it, like soil erosion was catastrophic. I grew up in a bridge time, when things were making a big shift. I still got involved in traditional stuff, but nontraditional is very comfortable. I may wear purple one of these days. Bit by bit, and even the classes at Iowa State -- the weed science class, for example, I knew 2,4-D was bad stuff. It wiped out the grape industry in southwest Iowa which at one time was a big grape producer. When farmers started raising corn and using 2,4-D, the grapes were so sensitive it just wiped them out, even the wild grapes. When I was a kid, we could go out to the back fence row with a wagon and pick grapes, and mom would make grape jelly, it was a family outing. And then, entomology classes were moving toward integrated pest management, using biological controls, cultural controls before we hit with chemicals, because resistance was developing and there were side effects. I was paying attention to other environmental issues, too. Thru AAUW I got involved in some educational projects. Iowa at that time had started putting environmental education in the public schools.

So, I needed to find a job, and OOGA [Ozarks Organic Growers Association] had a grant to start some chapters and increase their technical assistance, and I applied for that, even though it was real low pay. They wanted somebody to start a chapter in Fayetteville, so I came here for about 4 months and got another parttime job to help support myself working for a sprouts growing place. But while I had the position with OOGA somebody with the Rodale Institute who had met R. while he had been a farmer in Kansas contacted him about an open position, and he showed it to me -- it was halftime as an ATTRA technical specialist, half Rodale staff person to work in Arkansas, networking to get people involved in sustainable agriculture. The job description suited me, so I called the Rodale person -- I could have gone full time at ATTRA after a year, but in order to get the Rodale stuff off the ground, it needed to be full time, so the supervisor said fine.

I worked on this project for six years. I liked the program. I traveled in Arkansas and other southern states, getting acquainted with farmers who were doing innovative things, including alternative crops. Originally, I was supposed to pick farmers who were growing vegetables, either in part or on their whole farm. They didn’t have to be organic farmers, but they had to be doing something to reduce their chemical use. I would meet these people, get acquainted, and get them to do on-farm research, like trials. Most of them were pleased with field days, so I started setting up more of these, where farmers would come and see what they were doing. In the winters, we would have workshops that would have speakers, farmers, extension, researchers that were doing sustainable ag. I officed at home, writing letters and grant proposals and reports, and I traveled a lot.

I am working through a regional organizer for the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture, to develop a network of people we can call on to write letters, make phone calls, go to Washington DC or lobby their government reps locally on sustainable ag issues, legislation we need to get funded or passed. They needed somebody to organize the southern region, working 10 or 15 hours a week, so it’s housed at the Fayetteville office of ATTRA and I do it. It turned out to be more time than that, but a young man who likes to write is helping. I know a lot of the people, because I was previously involved with the southern sustainable ag group, which makes it easier to makes contacts. Programs involved are like various conservation projects, like Conservation Reserve programs, wetlands programs, funding for sustainable ag research and education program and for socially disadvantaged farmers.

For the last four years, I’ve been gardening for market, and selling up at the farmer’s market. I like what I’m doing, but then I help out part time at ATTRA, doing intake, answering questions -- I worked last winter. Anyway, market gardening is hard work, and I’m not in the black yet -- I grow all the vegetables -- lettuce, spinach, onions, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, sweet corn, potatoes - squash & pumpkin, flowers, strawberries -- I need to expand the strawberries, everybody wants them. We were selling them for $2 a pint.

I believe that things have spiritual connections. At one point, I might have thought it was coincidence, but I believe if we really want to connect with somebody, like an old friend or something, it will happen. My ethic is to live simply so that others may simply live, caring about nature, appreciating the beauty of nature.