It was 1963. I was 29 and living in the East Village, on probation from a bust crossing the border in MacAllen Texas two years before. My probation officer, a City College boy like myself, said there would be no problem with me leaving the States for an extended period abroad.
I flew to Europe with a few books in my suitcase and a dream of finding adventure, finding myself, finding God. I took Icelandic Air. You remember the cheapest flight to Europe in the sixties, a prop Constellation when every one else was flying jets. I landed in Paris. I knew a girl there. I slept over. She gave me a joint for the road. I hitchhiked to Barcelona reading Modern Man in Search of His Soul under street lights in the French night. I kept a journal in which I wrote poetry.
Alone in Barcelona, I checked into a cheap pensione. Days I took my book, now Civilization and Its Discontents, to the Ramblas and rented a chair in the sun from a disabled vet. The ominous Guardia Civil in their black patent leather hats and dark glasses passed in pairs. But Barcelona was beautiful and very European. I kept my eyes open for someone I could connect with. The second day a group of hippies passed. Tony Price (who I didn't know at the time) was one of them. I folded my book, got up from my chair and followed them. I had connected.
We were going to the Plaza where it was happening... I forget the name now. My real adventures started then.
Wow... Tony, what a trip. He was passing through... making a movie... some rich chick. Top of his form. Angular hipster in a leather jacket. Musician extra-ordinaire. Guitar slung over his shoulder. Goateed and long haired. Out-hipped the world. Talking story to charmed listeners. Hand rock steady on the Rapidograph pen. Everyone he met wanted to take him in. We didn't get to spend much time in Barcelona together... he was heading for Paris, I was heading somewhere else, to Ibiza, I was to find out.
About two months later I arrived in Rome driving an old Citroen limo, you know, the gangster looking car, and sleeping in it nights. I had it parked in the Piazza de Popolo, not far from the Spanish Steps where I would sun and read, now Lao-Tsu's Tao. I ran into Tony again. He was living in a pensione on the Via Margutta, the bohemian quarter below the Spanish Steps. He was with Jeri, a beautiful LA chick, artist and musician in her own right. His movie had fallen through. He was in another life, a different movie. I entered that new movie and have never really left.
I spent a month with Tony then, took showers in his and Jeri's pensione while we were in Rome. Met Steve Sanfield who had originally come with Jeri to Europe from California. Went to Naples with Tony after Jeri left, him sleeping in my car while I slept in a Hostel. Later I crossed the Atlantic in a Yugoslavian freighter with Jeri and a few years later still, married her in the small town of San Miguel in Mexico, but that is a story for a different time.
Tony was a picaresque saint. I remember reading an essay about the heroes of the new fiction writers, an irreverence combined with heroic virtues. The dictionary defines picaresque as "pertaining to rogues; describing the fortunes of adventurers". And there is no doubting Tony's saint-hood, at least as far as we hippies, ageing or otherwise, are concerned. We met again in New York and spent time together. We went to Nieland's Gurgieff lectures together. He stayed a few nights at my East Village pad. Then he took off for Santa Fe. After that I wandered a bit more ending up in Connecticut. I visited him on several occasions in New Mexico. Saw his work out in the field. I went to his show by Rose' at the Liquid Wedge Gallery in New York. I appeared in the Atomic Artist documentary. I spent time up at his trailer in Pecos. He visited with me in Hawaii. I saw his work at Bio-Sphere 2. I helped financially when he needed help. I can honestly say he was my guru, teacher, friend and hero, the most unusual, creative and impressive human being I have ever met. Those first encounters in Rome still loom large in my life.
He taught me the meaning of letting go, the true meaning of the Tao. He was unconcerned for himself, never anxious in what I would have taken as the most desperate circumstance: no money, no home, no tickets, in a foreign place, nothing to back him up, no safety net, out there. I had never seen anyone who was so willing to let go and let God. Of course he would not call it letting God. He was too hip for such a reference, but taking care of the day and letting the morrow take care of itself was definitely his modus operandi. And it all came together. Spectacularly. With great humor. He was with the best looking chick. He was being cared for. Waiters at Italian restaurants cut up his food for him. He always had a stash. The quintessential hipster, he let every scene play out with charm and grace. He was out there. Much as I've tried since, I could never do it like Tony. I never found anyone who could.
He taught me to draw. I had drawn when I was a teenager, mostly pornographic drawings that I would get off on. But he showed me the meditation of laying down a fine black line on a white field. It was definitely Zen. If you weren't mind-less, if a thought grabbed your attention, your hand would wander. It was real-time feedback of the most essential kind. And he did it perfectly. For hours on end. In every circumstance of public and private surround. Fully focused. Sinuously curved figures, archetypal rounds, flame tips licking, organic forms structuring space. Magister Ludi's precious conceptual beads strung on strands of cosmic connections. That fine tipped Rapidograph pen moving along that white linen card-stock, the fine black line trailing, one line after another, hairlines apart, undulating along the clean surface. Tony living on that stainless steel hypodermic tip. Just to watch was enlightening.
His music was another wonder. He was draped over his guitar, legs crossed, looking downward. He tuned it so an open strum would produce a chord. He would strum that open tuned guitar for hours and buried symphonies would emerge in echoing impressions that were never quite heard. Sometimes he would fret the top strings. Again, his concentration was awesome, pulling me into modes that I never thought myself capable of: intensely listening to a repeatedly strummed chord from which I gleaned a cosmos of sound variations. Beyond how. Beyond why. Beyond the familiar. Beyond the recognizable. Beyond words. Beyond meaning. Just sound. Glorious, celestial sound. Strumming life into the moment.
Even his body spoke volumes in body syntax. Angular, movements slightly jerky, a cigarette always lit, long graceful fingers, the bone at the base of his strong thumbs jutting, shrugged boney shoulders under a loose fitting blowsy shirt, boots at the end of crossed legs. He once told me "I carry this body of mine along the surface of this spinning sphere". And he did. He carried his body along. Like a puppet and a puppet master. You learned what that meant when you were with Tony. You started carrying your own body around on the surface of this sphere, an affectionate witness to its own actions and the scene it was in.
And his explanation of things or retelling of events always surprised me. I had to stretch to glom them. Often the stretch was too much. But I never was sure whether he was too far out there or if I was too much in here to follow him. He had seen things. He had been places real and trans-real. The Marine artist doing the colonels. The Mexican room with a chair trip. Brazilian nights on the road. Busted in Tangier. Strange voices in the night. Pyramids and dodecahedrons trapping interplanetary energy streams. The inside seem runs out. Caution was not a Tony quality. Believe, not believe, it was all the same. Fascinating, mind blowing, hipness personified.
I had read about higher states of consciousness. I heard the word Satori. Familiar with the concept of enlightenment. Well read in Zen. Had taken most psycho-active drugs. Certainly had experienced altered states. But I never lost the Bronx boy having a fling. Tony was the first one I had ever met who awed me. He was past his past. Not yet his unpredictable future. Pure present. Awesome concentration. Unshakable sureness. Fully here and now. A living example. I fell in love with him completely. He was the gold standard for hip, its essential form, body and soul.
Everyone who knew you, Tony, knew they knew a prince among men. You were what you said you were and you were as far out as your stories. You left a body of work, beyond prettiness, beyond trend and fashion, beyond commercial value, engaged in the most fundamental struggle between good and evil. You were a modern day alchemist, using all your considerable powers to transform the lead of atomic weapons experimentation into the gold of unifying and celebrating created form. You threw your power, your vitality, your strength into your transfomative visions. It killed you in the end.
Goodbye, oh great warrior, friend, hipster, artist, story-teller, musician, sculptor, saint and sinner. Goodbye Tony. See you on the other side which I know you'll be more at home in than I'll ever be.
When I was about three years old the concept of nuclear energy took hold of men's minds. Man became obsessed, driven by a few dark hearts to create a death machine using the laws of creation. Such were the times.
By the time I was eight, these men achieved their success, and almost instantly put the weapons to use on their enemies. Hundreds of thousands died. That day all of mankind became nuclear hostages. For forty years now, as the technology developed into its awesome present display, thousands of these devices have been exploded all over the world.
My life for the next twenty years, having found out I had the soul of an artist and being pressed by the tremendous dark cloud of nuclear destruction constantly hanging overhead, led me through a maze of self-discovery tearing away the veils of imagination to reveal a state of objectivity. This concept of objectivity rests in eternity. A difficult thing to explain, it allowed me to see that I was really going on from a vibrational point of view. It showed me that I was a link in the chain of all life. I had become you, and all mankind.
I now saw the world quite differently. Almost everyone was as if in a deep sleep, as if dead, stumbling within their own dream-making. But some of these men in their dreams had built devices that would end life on this planet forever and totally, amen. To awaken these men to what they had done seemed an impossible task. Anyhow, it was much too late, for the energy bubble of negative nuclear weapons system was growing larger each day.
My travels led me to New Mexico to the Labs of Los Alamos, birthplace of a demon "A" bomb. Here, somehow, I would face this task of demon neutralization.
So, armed only with Art plus a sense of extreme urgency and a sense of objectivity, a plan was formulated. Not to confront or attack this demon "A" bomb, but on another level, an energy level, I would try to deflate and balance these dark forces using the forces of light, and let them balance themselves.
For a generation behind the Concept of Atomic Art I set about this task: twenty years of waiting in line, with whatever monies I could scrape together to but the gleaming shards of our weapons development programs, sold through the Los Alamos Zia Salvage Company. Now I have my hands on real weapons, parts taken from the heart of this nuclear beast.
Objectively, I knew that there exists vast energy banks of super-good energy available. For each religion is like a giant capacitor in the fourth dimension, holding and dispersing the energies of its followers. Now all I had to do was to create symbols corresponding to the energy banks of these religions, using the material of the nuclear weapons energy system. When the vibrations of the nuclear scrap have been shaped into spiritual energy images, a vibrational tunnel or bridge is formed from the religious energy banks to the nuclear weapon banks, and an automatic balance of energies would be established.
An example, the nuclear sculptures shaped into our Native American Indian kachina masks: these spiritual energy images plug into the vast amounts of native Indian energy lying stored up in the Americas for centuries. I have sculpted these objects over the years corresponding to the different rays or religious banks of energy. Thus these scultures act as vibrational tunnels in energy transference, allowing the two energy systems to become doorways to each other. These sculptures act as valves bringing the dark and light energies together to balance and thus help to hold the peace.
It is my prayer that all nuclear energy systems be dismantled and the technology of such be forgotten. For radioactivity is a dead end channel to nothingness. God has given us a nuclear system to use, but His wisdom has placed it beyond our reach in the sun, not on our earth.
So it seems a big test is at hand. Can we put away our fear of each other? Can we become earthlings? If we can become earthlings, a fantastic prize awaits us....
God bless us all, and may He awaken a few of us so that we will know we have been blessed.
Tony A. Price, Atomic Art, July 16,1985
(40th Anniversary of the First Atomic Bomb Test)
THE LAST S.A.L.T. TALKS by Tony Price
An artist down in Santa Fe
Who turns out pieces night and day
Whose life's example shows the way
For many on the path
Is grinning at a private joke
Which came to him just as he woke
And now he's looking for a smoke
To take into the bath.
Here every room is jammed with art
All fashioned with his hand and heart
To find your way you'd need a chart
It flows into the yard
A solid mass of art so dense
Thank God the place has got a fence
Or this outrageous opulence
Would fill the boulevard.
It's morning and the world's in shreds
It makes men jump back in their beds
To keep away the dawn
The artist grins and rises up
He brews the coffee, finds the cup
He drinks and smokes and pets the pup
While wondering what to pawn
But nothing here is worth the dust
Or worth a little flake of rust
Not worth a crumb, no, not a crust
At the pawnbroker's shop
Out there you need something that's real
To have a chance to make a deal
A watch, a suit, something you steal
Not art or some such slop
Poets and atomic artists
Make the maps, they are the chartists
And among the very smartest
Life-forms in the crowd.
Focusing an inward vision
Clearing vistas with precision
On a course without collision
Quiet, they speak out loud.
Though doomed to poverty they're blessed
Unrecognized among the rest
Unknown they pass the hardest test
Each day they blaze a trail
Alone through unexplored terrain
Ignoring pleasure, bearing pain
Spilling their life-blood from each vein
While to the stars they sail.
Look! Tony's riding on a horse
Along a river to its source
He's driven by some driving force
Which keeps him on the go
The jungle swoops down to the shore
And covers up the forest floor
But he knows every wall's a door
And moves on with the flow
Caught in a mighty monsoon's wrath
The river washes out the path
Swamps them in a torrential bath
A dreadful undertow
Look! Tony's swimming up the stream
Deep in his eye a distant gleam
Chasing the impossible dream
His face, in dark, aglow
The river swerves around a bend
He disappears and I pretend
He's swimming still, swim on, my friend
Swim on, and Westward ho!
ODE TO TONY
Smiling T with the eyes all crinkly,
T looking down
Looking at you, dead faced,
Cigarette pulled from his lips by an angular hand
moving jerkily down and away,
Still looking, eyes from somewhere else,
Detached, then looking down.
T of the I-Ching and Gurdjieff and Ospensky
T of magnetic fields
Symbols of the "is", the "rest", the "forms"
In arrangements far removed from Euclidian norms
Till mystic energy towers
Over smug scientific powers to take him home.
From far above sometimes,
From below as if he were above,
A purity of comprehension,
Making boundaries meaningless:
All things are valid from above.
Earthly fears, though felt,
Pushed down, for thinking from above,
Sometimes came out in work or sullen silence,
Sometimes in guitar's most plaintive sounds, strummed at for hours
The twitching of a foot,
A constant downward look.
Otherwise, a pen glides over paper
In perfect trajectories
Smooth flowing curves
Clean and true,
Delicate shapes intertwine,
Hand and shape are one
A structure builds.
A guitar strums a plaintive rhythm
in a plaintive tone,
Steady and strong it pulls you in,
Rises imperceptibly and then returns to pull you in,
Building to higher pitches,
High ones manic, low ones panic,
You're held between the two.
Metallic voices of the bourgeoisie
Plumbing the limits of sanity
On afternoon T.V. in a pensione' in Rome.
A story line unfolds
In bazaar settings
Through fantastic plots.
Strange tapestries woven from a mind apart
Unbelievable believable events interlock
Cause and effect loose their meaning
Time is mixed
The horse becomes the cart
The teller becomes his art
All are transformed
Reality, with laughter underneath:
Junkies wandering through Mexican
Hospitals and cars exploding
Spade hipsters white and brown
A hundred pounds of kif unloading
From a two ounce can
Hepatitis eyes are driving
In doctor's office morphine nods
Airplane bathrooms, stoned arriving
Off a million credit cards
Hotels of Brazilia burning
Busted in Tangier
Five countries to which there's no returning
On to India for seers
Morty Breier, East village, 1965
For us the New Thought of each of our consciousness raising efforts is to hold a loving heart and open mind, enjoying the variety of God's and, hopefully, our own inclusiveness. Our world-view, as Americans, as planetary souls, is to think of ourselves as inheritors of all the world's wisdom traditions. We've recently been addressed as Buddhists, as Shamans and as Goddesses. Next week, in honor of Easter, we'll be addressed as Christians. This morning I will be addressing you as Jews, as inheritors of the Old Testament, the Hebrew Torah. Specifically we will be addressing the major theme of Exodus: Moses getting the Egyptian Pharaoh to free the Israelites; their crossing of the Red Sea; Their being given the Ten Commandments; and the 40 years that the Hebrews wandered in the wilderness before entering the promised land. We will see how this archetypal sequence of transformational events pertains to our own search for freedom, wholeness and meaning.
Many Jews address God as HaShem, translated from the Hebrew as "The Name". The Rabbis, our teachers, hold that it is a sin to name God. It is like making a graven image, an attempt to capture God, a reduction, a noun amongst nouns, a name amongst names. By calling God HaShem we acknowledge that He/She is unknowable, uncontainable, ineffable. While at the same time, strangely enough, this name HaShem seams to make God approachable, a countryman, a member of the family. That's the tradition and I'll be using it here... so remember HaShem translates as God, Christ-consciousness, Cosmic-consciousness, the Great Spirit, Buddha Nature, Mother Nature, the Ground of Being, and Creation's Source.
I'd like to thank Jane Lunstrom for asking me to do this service. We were discussing the difficulties of change and she reminded me of the Passover lesson which I shared with her. She thought it would make a good New Thought Service.... so here it is.
Passover is the quintessential holiday, celebrating as it does our release from slavery, an event that happened some 3 thousand years ago. In addition, we honor 3 subsequent events: Our crossing of the Red Sea; our being given the Law; and our 40 years of wandering before entering the promised land. Let us look at this series of events as though they represent meaningful processes for our lives here and now, for that is what our sages tell us to do. For this exercise, I'll use myself as the example.
Let me first transpose these series of
historical events into their paradigmatic processes:
1) RELEASE; Pharaoh is forced to allow the Israelites to leave Egypt.
2) TRANSCEND; The Israelites cross the Red Sea
3) REALIZE; The Israelites are given the Law
4) INTEGRATE; 40 years to get ready to enter the promised land.
These sequential processes manifest themselves simultaneously in the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual realms. These are the working of the four realms indicated by the hebrew letters "yud-heh-vav-heh", yawa or jehovah, the torah's reference to God. The end heh, the material world, is represented by "It is perfect". The vav or emotional world is represented by "You are loved". The mental world of the second "heh" represented by "All is clear". The "yud" of the spiritual world, represented by "I am holy". These stages of transformation, Release, Transcend, Realize and Integrate, themselves reflect the four "yud-heh-vav-heh" realms since the first is usually brought about by a physical event, the second by emotional effort, the third by mental insight and the fourth by the spirit of being. The four stages, Release, Transcend, Realize and Integrate comprise, as I'll show, the major milestones in each of our lives.
1. RELEASE. It is not easy to overcome physical restraint. Violence and pain are often required. Examples abound in all of Human history. The power that restrains me, often my own feelings and beliefs, is loath to give up its hold. My own journey through time contains several dramatic changes in my circumstance, each one of which produced a wrenching dislocation. Each time outside physical events forced me to change. In spite of my reluctance, I was made to give up a position I cherished. I have grown to see these events as seminal to my growth. In each case I realized later that my former position was limited, blind in key respects, restrained by a false outlook. Hashem, Reality, was there to show me just how narrow, limited and constrained my outlook actually was. I didn't learn easily. I fought against changing. It seamed as though giving up my position would leave me powerless. I wanted to hold on to my power. My power, I believed, resided in my understanding of things. HaShem insisted otherwise. We fought, but as Kafka once said, in your battle with the world, bet on the world. The world, Reality, HaShem's perfect presence informed me otherwise. First by the fact that the physical world was not conforming to my expectations, leading to a feeling of helplessness, which in turn undermined my conceptual constructs, finally leading to my letting go... physical to emotional to mental to spiritual release. The plagues and Pharaoh's intransigence are precisely the correlates to this battle between entrenched interests and forward movement.
2. TRANSCEND. That final letting go has always signaled the ending of the last and the beginning of the new chapter in my life's journey. Again with much difficulty. What was I to do? Where to go? With whom? Who were my friends? Where to seek solace? Fragments of the last chapter still beckoned. Was I lost? Had I done the right thing? What is left of me? Am I on a downhill slide? These questions haunted me. The physical world no longer looked familiar, comforting and supportive. My heart had a great emptiness at its center. My thinking was fragmented, uncertain, tentative. My soul, I feared, was doomed to darkness and failure. But somehow, with a strength that seemed beyond me, with HaShem's help, I persevered. I went on, sloughing through the swamp of my desperation, until gradually the ground under my feet became firmer, the questions no longer tormented, the landscape clearing, my spirit brightening. I began to look up, to again be interested in the world around me. I began to feel the possibility of new adventures. I start to reorganize my new found reality. A new day is dawning for my spirit. I had, with HaShem's help, transcended this desolate landscape, crossed over the Sea of Reeds.
3. REALIZE. Then, with time, perspective is gained. The real meaning of this disconcerting drama, this un-asked for shift in fortune, with HaShem's help and a new willingness to listen and learn, starts to assemble itself. My letting go is a key ingredient, I realize, because by quieting the angry or hurt voice in me, I can start to pay attention to the lesson offered. Over time I begin to see that every difficulty is a lesson offered, an opportunity to let go, to let go of a broken world, a wounded heart, a faulty mindscape, a sickly spirit. By emptying myself I allow the world to fill me with rejuvenating energy. HaShem's living world, His compassionate heart, His crystal clear consciousness and His Holy spirit have room to work. This unfamiliar territory brings a freshness to my observations, a tenderness to my feelings, a humbleness to my thinking and a hopefulness to my spirit. I begin to see what a fool I've been and begin to see the possibility of my becoming wiser. I begin to understand that there is a lawfulness to these things, an economy of the soul, a just and balanced appropriateness. This lawfulness, HaShem's cosmic construct, makes itself known precisely because, being humbled by events, I pay more attention to their properties, to HaShem's voice. I recognize a little more strongly His power and His justice and start the process of better aligning myself with these forces, both within and without. I've been given, and begin to receive, HaShem's Law.
4. INTEGRATE. Now comes the long and constant work of integrating this new realization into the fabric of my life. I am, after all, a creature of habit. I fall back on what I'm familiar with. There are many deep grooves in my operative tracks. I must remind myself that I understand the world a little better, there is a little more love in my heart, a little more that my vision now includes, a little wiser my spirit. I must remind myself because I keep slipping into old ways, old reactions, old mind games. There's a certain inertial mass to my being. I'm still living in the old reality even though I recognize a new, more useful one. I need to exercise my will to change. I need to persevere, to work on it, to keep working on it. I need to move to new rhythms, to smile with new heart, to see with new consciousness, to glow with new spirit, in each moment of my daily life. I need to will it until I begin to be it. HaShem made the Israelites wander 40 years in the desert, wander until the generation of slave consciousness died off. It was only then, when they were a generation of free consciousness, that he allowed them into the promised land. Israel required a generation change. I require a letting go of the old me, a change of action, an opening of heart, an expanded mind, a more joyful soul, to move into my promised land.
Release, Transcend, Realize, Integrate, or Pharaoh frees us, we cross the Red Sea, we are given the Law, and it takes 40 years to reach the Promised Land. So that's what we celebrate, Israel's journey from slavery to the promised land, to remind us of the steps we each must take from lower to higher ground. It doesn't come easy. There is terror and stubbornness, fear and violence, plagues and refusals, doubts and retreats. But with each difficulty comes a stronger resolve, a reviving hope, a renewed desire to change, and a willingness to work for it. There is also, of course, HaShem's guidance and helping hand, especially as we are humbled by the difficulties, emptied by the course of events, bled by the wounds incurred. All the aspects of our Passover Seder Meal are there to remind us of these elements of transformation so that we might apply the lessons to our lives. But, as you know, we are a stiff necked people. We need the lesson repeated every year, maybe even every day. Thanks and see you at the KBS Seder.
The idea is to get a bunch of hip contributors, secret sages, to comment on the passing scene, to offer creative work and to wax philosophical about perennial issues. The tribe's elders, and I count myself among them, need a forum and at least this is a start. To begin with, I hope that my dear friends become this E-Zine's regular contributors. The trouble is that they are, as is perfectly appropriate for this mission, iconoclasts to the core and getting them to cooperate is like hearding cats.
And that's just the part that tries filling these electronic pages... trying to get readers is an entirely different proposition. I remember an actor telling me that it's better to be in a play with a large cast because then all the family and friends of the cast are at least sure to help fill the seats. The start of this E-Zine readership will be like that. Friends have friends and family. And who better to make contact with than our friends and family.
Even though we now have had only three other contributors, my cousin and dear friend Marcus Uzilevsky, my old buddy, the wonderful poet Rose', and posthumously, the legendary Tony Price, the rest being my stuff, I hope these pages might inspire others to join in. I will be sending email messages to those I particularly want to contribute but everyone is welcome to try their hand. I hope to have several different views on a particular topic that needs addressing and I'll let you know each month what those topics are.
Feel free, of course, to submit anything you want. I would like your submittal to be accompanied by your photo and an autobiographical piece. I can read attachments in Microsoft Word or in Corel WordPerfect and I prefer JPEG formatted images. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Let's see what we can do together. Remember:
POWER TO THE PEOPLE.
MORTY BREIER, Editor