At Union I played football, wrestled, ran track, and in the process made new friends, the best of whom was Brett Jackson (pictured above). I met Brett on the track team. He was a middle distance runner who went on to set the school record for the half mile. Sadly, a few years later Brett would move away to Alaska with his family, where he suffered a horrible bike accident which left him severely disabled. Brett's physical problems were later compounded by negligent medical care, for which he was eventually compensated. Unfortunately, however, it resulted in his early death.
While at Union though, Brett introduced me to a new friend of his: Charlie (pictured below, right). It was through meeting Charlie that my inner life was about to get a kick start.
Charlie transferred to Union in the eighth grade after his junior high school folded. Charlie had come from Hogue Junior High. That fact left a bad impression on me because I had wrestled against Hogue (pronounced "Ho-Gee") students the year before and didn't like them. They wore dark uniforms, and while wrestling, they squatted close to the mat with their hands hanging down like they were primates -- swinging back and forth brushing the mat, menacing. The ceiling of their gym was decorated with in-your-face aphorisms like, "If you can read this, you're being pinned!" I had taken great pleasure in pointing that particular sign out to one of my unfortunate Hogue opponents.
With Charlie, however, that fear of mine proved unfounded. Brett, Charlie and I would become inseparable for the next two years, engaging in a wide range of debauchery and hijinks fueled largely by our daily pot smoking habit -- a habit we picked up from Charlie's big brother Dave.
At the time, Charlie's older brother Dave was a high school junior. He was smart, strong, and a good guitar player. He (and his friends) not only introduced us to the pleasures of marijuana, but also to a wide range of new music, including progressive rock and jazz fusion. At that time, Dave had also begun regaling us with fantastical stories about miracles and swamis which he was reading about in some strange book.
One night, after hearing one of these tales, I went home and recounted the story to my mom. She went straight to her bookshelf and pulled down the same, strange, orange-covered book I'd seen Dave reading. "Is this the book," my mom asked. "Yes, that's it!" I was dumbfounded. It seemed miraculous that she had had it. The book: Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda.
Though it would take a few more years for the significance of this event in my life to come to full fruition, the die was cast as soon as I cracked open the book and began to read its first page.