Monday, January 21, 2008

The Last Straw

By the end of our sophomore year -- June 1981 -- Charlie's older brother Dave had found his own living guru: Sri Chinmoy. Sri Chinmoy was little known, which was probably a good thing considering it was the era of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.

I, however, was sure that my guru was in India. Any guru in the U.S. was suspect in my eyes from the start. And while I felt a living kinship with Swami Yogananda, instinctively I longed for a living master.

Truthfully, at 16 I had no idea how I was going to find my master in India, nor did I feel much urgency to do so. While I had made some superficial changes to my lifestyle -- I had become a vegetarian and tried to meditate for a few minutes each day -- I was pretty much the same emotionally dysfunctional kid I was at the beginning of the previous school year. That, however, was about to change.

That summer -- through a connection of my dad's -- Charlie and I got summer jobs at the Capitol Drive-In Theater (pictured). We worked at the snack shack selling Cokes and making popcorn. One evening, a girl passed me a note with her phone number on it and I called her the next day.

She lived in the foothills east of San Jose and invited me over to go swimming. So, with my swim trunks in hand, I drove over there (in my 1965 Ford Falcon). The home was pretty nice, with a pool and jacuzzi in the back. As I recall, there were a number of people about, including her parents, so it seemed apparent to me (unfortunately) that there'd be no monkey business going on between me and the girl. So, we settled into the hot tub and shared some nervous chatter. While we talked, we were listening to a boom box that was plugged into the side of the house and set on the edge of the tub.

Sure enough, one of the other guests walked by and tripped over the boom box, sending it into the hot tub while still plugged into the wall. Now, I don't actually know whether there was any danger of electrocution to us, but it scared the shit out of both me and the girl. Shaken, I went to the bathroom and changed out of my swimsuit and the girl then walked me out to my car. In the few minutes of privacy we had before I took off, we made out. For me, though, it was mechanical; my heart wasn't in it.

On my drive back home, I vividly remember slamming both my open hands on the steering wheel in despair and frustration. I had almost died, I thought, and what had I been thinking of? A girl! My mind was nowhere near the Divine.

That was it. It would be another decade before I kissed another girl. The search for my spiritual master was on.