Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Last Whole Earth Catalog

The other day, I was reading one of my new favorite blogs by Urban Food Guy. http://urbanfoodguy.blogspot.com/ . He included a recent video of Stewart Brand, of Whole Earth Catalog fame. I hadn't thought of that book for years--decades maybe. That started me on a search for my copy which, surprisingly, turned up on the bottom shelf of our library just two rooms away.
The brochure tucked inside clearly said it was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection obtainable for 1 book-divident credit plus $1.50 --a big savings from the publisher's list price of $5.00! The biggest surprise for me was that I had written the date and my name in it--Patti Wilson, 1971. I haven't been her since 1972. I didn't remember being so interested in this "stuff" way back then. My copy was called The Last Whole Earth Catalog: Access to Tools. It was resurrected in the following years with catchy titles like the The Updated Last Whole Earth Catalog and the Millenium Whole Earth Catalog which I still have. I spent the better part of this afternoon browsing and reminiscing about the days when I was a hippie-wannabe. I wonder how many people I know still have their copy. Do you?

I knew I had to take the time to find my old copies of the local new age papers and directories so I could refocus on the history of new age Gainesville. Surely, I wouldn't have throw them out. (Dottie, do you still have your copies?) That took a little longer and they ended up being in clear view in my home office, just waiting for this present moment when it feels like enough time has gone by to actually call it our history.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Seeds of Awakening

My intention was to keep this historical blog in some kind of chronological order. However, I find myself longing to tread the far corners of my mind, once more repeating my meandering search for the seeds of my awakening to this new way of being in the Universe. Have you done this too?
I think, yes, that was the very beginning, the book/people/event (fill in your own word) that started my spiritual search. Then a prior experience surfaces in my mind and I recognize it as an earlier herald of change. I just didn't know it at the time. This exercise invariably takes me all the way back to my childhood. If you will allow me this self-indulgence, perhaps writing it down once and for all will unearth something I've missed before. It's important to me, yet I know it doesn't matter at all. That strikes me so funny and I'm LOL.

Yes, in 1977 the Temple of the Universe played a major part in my growth. The aroma of incense took me back to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church where I was sent (not taken) to church in my youth. The chanting at the Temple felt familiar too. It reminded me of the haunting melody of Tantum Ergo which we sang in Latin at Mt. Carmel's. But I don't want to go that far back to a time when I was not allowed to read the Bible or basically think for myself.

Before my 1972 divorce, there were the magical years at Santa Fe Community College. In my Italian-American family, going to college was not an option. I was expected to graduate from high school with perfect grades, work at a job, but not a career, until I was married, then continue working until my first child was born. After that I was expected to stay and home and raise my family. Kids were obedient then, at least in my family, and so I did as I was told. Out of respect, they said.

I loved being a mother of four amazing children, two girls and two boys. I still do. By 1969 when my youngest was entering kindergarten, I finally had an opportunity to start college. I felt excited and scared. My then-husband took me by the hand to register at Santa Fe Community College. I will always be grateful to him for that. I felt awkward being an older student at the ripe old age of 33! How surprised I was that there were others my age there, not too many, but we found each other and watched each other change and grow.

I can't find words to explain how that nurturing environment was exactly what I needed to open my mind to new ways of thinking. The other day I found this poem I wrote in 1969 for Ms. Arena's writing class there. I was still Patti Wilson then, a few years away from being single again and taking back my maiden name of Normandy.

The seeds of change were crystal clear in this poem I wrote when I was thirty-three. I was surprised I mentioned zodiac signs, bell bottom pants and love beads. Middle-class Mom was morphing and didn't have a clue.

Springtime, '69
Opening buds, opening minds
Flowers unfold; theories take shape
Grasses grow green. Read Naked Ape
Push up the clock; midnight oil burn
Days getting long; so much to learn

Essays are due--Locke and Rousseau
Papers to write (mind's gonna blow)
Rosenblum, Darwin, empirical proof
(Time out for Trader's, let's go raise the roof)
Permutate, computate, logic obliterate
(Dishes and ironing and sewing all gotta wait)

Erasthenes Seive, Venn Diagrams
Chew it all up and then take the exams
Maslow and Perls (and don't forget Merrill)
If you don't know yourself, that is the peril
First we must actualize, then time to theorize
(Have to economize, that's what I realize)

Lucy and Sharon, Pat and Charles, too
Eating at Anthony's Tuesdays on cue
Haikus are fun: 5-7-5
(Plant's gonna die. Why'd I pick chives?)
Finger arithmetic--zodiac signs
Atlas revisited. (Try Mateuse wine)

Mechanical Boy finally grew up
(Dog had a litter. Do I want a pup?)
Blackfoot and Cheyenne didn't turn me on
But for all the rest, thanks, Mrs. LeBron
Cultural activities--more papers to write
Is Rand just like Nietzsche? (My house is a sight!)

I.Q.s and Haikus; Fregley and Ford
Always the project, never get bored
Bell bottom pants, love beads to match
(Moth in garage is ready to hatch)
Dexedrine, Methedrine--can't go to sleep
Quarter is OVER--collapse in a heap!

Monday, July 20, 2009

The last LIST

A funny thing happened when I checked my blog this morning to edit the next installment. This one was never published after I edited it. Maybe it will show up somewhere else, maybe not. So much for keeping this in chronological order. Linear thinking is vastly over-rated anyway.

Issue #6 of the LIST took me to a natural food restaurant called The Magic Mushroom at 1800 NW 23rd Avenue. It was run by Gloria Brown and Scott Davis.

Paul Hoffman worked there when he first came to Gainesville in 1978, a few years before he published Gainesville's first new age directory. Paul once told me he remembers phoning Hazel Henderson to welcome her to Gainesville. We were excited about her choosing to live in Gainesville because she was a well-known futurist and had just been on the cover of New Age Journal.

There was a 1978 special edition of the LIST called Gainesville People's Pages #7. It cost a quarter. It included the first listing I've found for Mother Earth at 604 NW 13th Street. It was the first health food store I'd ever been in.

Under "Listings" there was another first mention, Flash Silvermoon, who offered Tarot & Astrology Readings, and lessons. Our late son, Joseph, was one of her tarot students who went on to be a great reader himself.  Joe often credited Flash for teaching and inspiring him. Flash arrived here from New York City in 1975 where she had started a Women's Cosmic Consciousness Raising Group and gave readings professionally. I could write a book about the amazing Flash and the good work she has done in our area!

An ad for Duck Stop used comics at 617 W. University reminded me that there were many places I never knew about. I married into a family of guys very much into comics. I'll have to ask if they shopped there.

When I grew up in Brooklyn, comics were big. The boys on the block bought Captain Marvel and Superman (which my mom would not allow me to read because, in her opinion, they were not for girls). The girls bought Pep comics to catch up with Archie and Friends, who were Betty and Veronica and the annoying friend, Reggie. I never could get into them. I only loved Mary Marvel, alias Mary (Batson) Bromfield, twin sister of Captain Marvel. When she arrived on the scene in 1942 in Captain Marvel Adventures #18, Fawcett Publications, she was the closest thing to a heroine the comics offered little girls of my generation. Shazam! But I digress, again.

By 1980, Andy (Astra) Lopez had a Coconut Grove address. I never saw another copy of the LIST.

Years later I asked people for their earliest memory of any publication about anything holistic in Gainesville. Someone told me the first natural food newsletter was called Our Daily Bread, published around 1965 by a family who owned a store by the same name. In time, someone surprised me with an old issue they had saved to add to my growing collection.

Cathy DeWitt added, "Our Daily Bread was a great little store--kind of behind where Mother Earth is now--a lot of musicians hung out there, with occasional jams." Her comment is full of wonderful memories.

Around 1969-71 there was a "Free University" here but I'm not sure if that was its official name. Free classes without grades were held in people's homes and other free locations. Everyone was a teacher and a student and none of the teachers got paid. I remember Hank Gooch teaching a class in Love at my home once. I had taken his popular class at Santa Fe Community College called "Contemporary American Religions" that introduced me to Eastern religions, but that's another subject for a future blog.

In the '70s, devotees of Eastern gurus founded spiritual centers here that offered meditation, chanting, yoga, and other types of instruction. We had the Divine Light Mission (Guru Maharaj Ji), Gainesville Siddha Yoga Dham (Baba Muktananda), the Rajneesh Meditation Center, the Krishna Center, and groups that studied the teachings of Meher Baba and Paramahansa Yogananda, and later a Kripalu Yoga Center (Amrit Desai).

Mickey Singer's Temple of the Universe was already in nearby Hague where it is still a peaceful haven for spiritual seekers of all paths. My friend Mary Lee was watching my interests change and one day at work she told me she thought I was ready to read Mickey Singer's book and check out the Temple. By then, no longer a stranger in a strange new age land, I felt a strong need to meet like-minded people. I went, and it changed my life forever. I loved the meditation and chanting and Mickey's talks. After the Sunday services everyone gathered in a circle outside for tea and sharing. It took no time at all to realize I was a not solitary searching weirdo after all. I had found a spiritual home.

The Transcental Meditation Center was here early on at 1125 SW 2nd Avenue, and the Gainesville Zen Circle (Jan Sendzimir) was already meeting weekly for meditation, chanting, and lessons.

That's just a small sample of the '70s taken straight from the pages of our history books, the new age publications of that time. If this reads like a deja vu, it's because some of it is taken from a series of articles I wrote in 2001. In my incarnation as Patti Normandy, I wrote about this subject for The Lightworker: Gainesville's Visionary Network Paper, published by Cheri Stewart. Cheri was the owner of The Dream Zone store at 4000 Newberry Road.  

I apologize for not including so many people who were doing good work back then. Please know that I honor the work you did, and are still doing, and appreciate the part you played in holding the Light and bringing us to this place in history.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The LIST, part 2

A lot was happening on University Avenue. The LIST had ads for the Book Gallery at 6 E. University and Goerings Book Center at 1310. The Hogtown Granary Food Co-op, "the South's Leading Co-op since 1974," was at 804. There was also the first ad I had seen for Hyde & Zeke's Record Exchange which was at 919 W. University then.

The ads in the Winter '79 issue of the LIST's Florida Pages #5 alerted us that the Hogtown Granary had a new address at 1124 W. University. I bought my Champion juicer there and it's still going strong 30 years later. Amazing.

Bellevue Gardens Organic Farms in Archer had an ad in that issue, and so did Jamie Londono for his Lecanto Tofu Shop. Amelia's Books at 12 NW 8th Street introduced books for, by, and about women. At the same time Alma Rose gave us Sophia's, a "creative self-development center for women."

Some of the chiropractic physicians with ads in that issue were Zindani Tilchin, Randall Roffe, Bruce Rappaport, Lewis Arrandt, and Steve Schargel.

Birthplace, an alternative birthing center, was at 635 NE First Street. Dr. Joel Friedman had his holistic medical practice upstairs, and though we all wished him well when he moved to Hawaii, he left a void in the healing community that I've never quite gotten over.

The McConnell family owned Sunflower Health Foods, then at 7 W. University. The Gainesville Artisan's Guild was up and running at 806 W. University, a new showcase for talented local artists. Festival Signs was located in the rear of 19 SE 2nd Place. We also had the Soma Institute, founded by Bill Williams and Ellen Gregory, featuring neuromuscular integration.

It didn't take me too long to realize that the LIST 's ads were a directory of all things alternative and they became my roadmap to explore the intriguing counterculture. Something was stirring inside me as I kept thinking there ought to be a new age directory. Little did I know...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Down Memory Lane via the LIST

OK, ready for a roller coaster ride down memory lane? Hang on, read the LIST newpaper over my shoulder, and see how many of these people and places you remember. Some are still here and some are gone, but not forgotton. (Note: This is NOT a test!)

In 1977, the North Florida Botanical Society took out a full page ad asking for community help in establishing a botanical garden that would be called Kanapaha. Their dream manifested into Kanapaha Botanical Gardens which opened to the public in 1987. Today, it's a 62-acre facility with 24 major collections including the state's largest public display of bamboos and the largest herb garden in the Southeast. What a success story! It's located at 4700 SW 58 Drive in Gainesville (entrance on SW Archer Road 1 mile west of I-75 exit 384). http://www.kanapaha.org/

In 1977, the Florida School of Massage was located at 114 SE First Street and had been offering massage therapy education since 1973. The complete tuition was $650. Today they are located on ten acres in the raised hammock that surrounds Payne's Prairie wildlife preserve. Their address is 6421 SW 13 Street, Gainesville. Their website has a 360-degree Virtual Tour that tells their story better than I can. Another success story! http://www.floridaschoolofmassage.com/

In 1977, Sunshine Plants advertised her popular Down to Earth Breakfast House at 625 W. University Avenue. The bulletin board was situated so we could read the flyers while waiting in line. It was the place to discover what was going on in the happy little new age subculture I was still tentatively checking out. We gathered there and exchanged hugs and the latest news while waiting for the indescribably delicious whole wheat banana pancakes and yummy herbal omelettes. What I loved best was that my good friend, Mary Lee Chapman, was a waitress there (way before it became politically correct to call them servers). She served love with the food, and it felt warm and fuzzy, like going home.

Around the corner, across the side street at 10 SW 7th Street was Subterranean Circus. It was the first head shop I'd ever been in. It was the '70s--a time of black lights and lava lamps, beaded curtains and beanbag chairs. It was the place to buy those groovy blacklight psychedelic posters, flower power bumper stickers, and not-yet-illegal paraphernalia. If you hung out long enough, you could count on running into a lot of people of all ages in tie-dyed shirts and Birkenstocks. William Killeen managed it, though I can't recall meeting him.

Next: The LIST, continued

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Gainesville People's Pages--Doorway to my new world

My own uncertain leap into the new age-holistic-spiritual-metaphysical community materialized in the 1970s.

I was clueless and anxious about what was happening to me deep inside. I was changing, but into what? I thought I needed a road map to take me somewhere, though I didn't know where, and someone to assure me I was not the only one in the Universe going through this "whatever." I prayed for help. It arrived disguised as a new age newspaper.

There was a natural food store and juice bar called Health Horizons at 627 N. Main Street. I had never been there but decided to check it out since a friend worked there. While waiting for my smoothie, I picked up a funky free newspaper they distributed, called the Gainesville People's Pages. It was truly an artform, like no newspaper I had ever seen. It was published by Andy "Astra" Lopez, of the LIST (Living Institute of Survival Technology), which was owned by Astra's Garden School of Divination and Psychic Development at 1813 SW 23rd Street.

That paper was a doorway into a new world for me to explore. Before long I found kindred spirits willing to share my adventures in consciousness.

Next: A roller coaster ride down memory lane.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Back to the '70s

When Dottie Zavada and I met in Gainesville, Florida in the 1970s, we discovered that we shared an insatiable passion for collecting new age publications.

We rationalized our overflowing filing cabinets full of dog-eared papers by affirming that we were guardians of the history of a movement that was sweeping the planet. An exhilarating expansion of consciousness was in the air and we felt that some day we would use our collections of new age magazines and newspapers to document what was happening in an underground of sorts that was tentatively emerging in our own home town.