Friday, August 28, 2009

1982 - Watershed, the Newspaper

Holistic Gainesville was teeming with abundant opportunities for spiritual growth in 1982, but for Gordon and me, it was the the magical year we got married on May Day. We came across our wedding vows recently, and reminisced about how we promised to stay together as long as our spiritual paths were joined. We didn't include our other requirement, that we'd stay together as long as we always lived south of I-10! No problem. We like it hot!

Watershed's first issue came out in March of 1982 with Jim Zimmerman and friends. It called us to action. Michael Shields and Thomas W. Simon defined the paper as providing "a new forum to witness the emerging awareness that we can create our future and why that has everything to do with how we live in the present." It was full of environmental and political issues, both local and global.

We devoured articles by Michael Shields, Thomas Simon, Larry Cole, Stan Pollack, Sandi Trachsel, Sallie Harrison, Jim Notestein, and Robin Lasobeck. The second issue was put out with the help of Marilyn Bays, Joannie Breeze, Peter Conrad, Patty Everett, Suzanne Kragiel, Debbie Moodey, Sergio Ortega, Tom Simon, Scott Weinstein, and, of course, Jim Zimmerman.

Their first article was by Michael Eldridge who analyzed the City Commission election. The paper said they did not endorse any of the candidates even though Michael was clearly a supporter of the winner, Gary Gordon.

I recently became a Facebook friend of Gary's. He has a great website that has many old photos, including one from 1978 of Gary and his bandmates Kenny Shore and Dave Durham aka The Archer Road Band. You can also hear some of his original music on the site.
If you click on Great Gainesville Music on the left side of the page it will take you down Gainesville's musical memory lane back in the day before any of us said, "back in the day."

In 2008, Lake Superior State University included "back in the day" among its phrases that deserve eternal banishment. I also read that among young people the expression can now mean no more than six months ago. I read it on the Internet so I KNOW it must be true!

It appears I am no longer staying current with the latest phrases and my language dates me. That can happen when your children are grown and the grandchildren live in other states. My amazing daughter, Priscilla, gently told me last year that my perfectly adorable and quite large Tinker Bell pocketbook was no longer called a pocketbook. It was a bag. Okay, it did look like a tote bag, so I adapted and called it a bag. I don't think Tink would like that. I know my mother wouldn't, and I certainly don't. To me a bag is a sack, something we used to get at the grocery store before we knew any better and started carrying our own cloth bags. Thank goddess for children or I'd be a dinosaur. (No doubt another outdated expression.)

However, I do want to pat myself on the back about something.  I believe I was the first person I knew who noticed at least a decade ago that the crossbar on the capital letter "A" was very gradually being omitted in ads, book covers, movies, etc.  I think I deserve a point for that astute observation. I predicted then, and hold to my opinion, that in time "A" will permanently lose its crossbar and become an upside-down "V." Only time will tell. But I digress and I want to tell you about Watershed, the newspaper.

Watershed had the first ad I ever saw for Paul Hoffman's Transformational Information Systems, a new age information and referral service. More in a later blog about Paul and the many ways he influenced and supported my life choices. Another first time ad for me was Jim and Cindy Hirt's Demian's Leathers at 1634 West University Avenue, around the corner from the old (pre-fire) Chaucer's restaurant. They traced around your feet on paper and used that as a pattern to make comfortable sandals that actually matched the shape of your feet. It was a novel idea in America, where women were still stuffing their feet into painful pointy-toed high heeled shoes that resembled no human feet anyone has ever seen in the history of the world.

Oh wait, I think young women are wearing them again after a generation of radical freethinking non-conformists discarded every semblance of uncomfortable anything we wore to attract men (or other women), including, but not limited to, burning bras and ill-fitting pantyhose. (A man must have invented pantyhose.) My upbringing, by well-meaning parents who had survived THE depression, didn't leave room for wasting anything so I just packed my bras away for awhile and gave the pantyhose and high heels to Goodwill. So what has happened? Did we teach our daughters nothing, or are they now the radicals, rebelling against the way we were by teetering in their 5-inch heels? When you think of  life as a whole, I know that none of this matters at all. I am just noticing, not complaining.

One of my nicknames is C.P., short for Curious Priscilla. I simply had to google "who invented pantyhose?" and, as I suspected, it was a man. In 1959, Glen Raven Mills of North Carolina introduced pantyhose invented by Allen Gant, a descendant of John Gant, who founded the textile mill in 1902. Now if you're ever on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" and this question comes up, you will be well-prepared and I shall expect a thank you email (which I am told is old hat and email may not exist by then). Please don't tweet me or text me because I rarely check my Twitter account and my cell has text messages disabled. I do like Facebook but not all the apps so I won't respond to them either and, by the way, I'll admit it, we have no intention of getting rid of our landline which is the only thing that worked in a tropical storm a few years ago after the cell died and the power went off.

Well, I got off on another tangent but I like to follow the energy wherever it takes me. I want to say one more thing about my leather sandals from Demien's. I've had mine for over twenty-five years and have only had to replace the soles and strap once. What a bargain! At the risk of injecting negativity, I've just got to say it. They don't make things like that anymore. (I suspect that people somewhere probably do and I just haven't attracted them yet. I'll have to work on that.)

The Watershed ad for Chaucer's at the Renaissance Fair at 1642 W. University Avenue brought back happy memories of delectable dinners shared with fantastic friends. Before heading home, we always stopped downstairs at Rainbow Dreams which rightly called itself The Unusual Gift Shop. Future Watershed ads told us the Florida School of Massage had moved to 1115 N. Main St.

David Bole's ad was in Watershed's April, 1982 issue. David had earned postdoctoral degrees in acupuncture from the College of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture in Oxford, England. In 1979 he opened Gainesville's first acupuncture practice. His ad showed an address of 2929 NW 13th St. David is now director of the Traditional Acupuncture Center at 1204 NW 10th Ave. He is also a fully ordained monk (Gelong). Lama David is the resident teacher for the Gainesville Karma Thegsum Choling (KTC). His website is where I just enjoyed a 3-minute video about our own very special Dr. David.

The December, 1982 issue had a front-page interview of Jorge and Wanda Ibanez (where is the tilde on this keyboard when I need it?) done by Scott Weinstein. They talked about their new small business, Emiliano's Spanish Bakery at 615 W. University Ave. They tempted us with Latin-American pastries and authentic pan de agua. Scott also interviewed Wanda's brother, Gilberto Depaz of El Mercado, the store next door at 613 W. University Ave.There was no Spanish market in Gainesville at the time so Gilberto had to travel to Tampa and Miami to get supplies. It's hard to believe that Emiliano's Cafe opened downtown twenty-five years ago. Their website says they "have evolved and have changed to remain the same," and reminds us that they "spearheaded Downtown Gainesville's Renaissance, ushering in a new era of patio cafes."

Friday, August 14, 2009

1978 Taste the Soup!

My friend Mary Lee Chapman encouraged me to go to the Temple of the Universe, "a yoga and meditation center where people of any religion or set of beliefs can come together to experience inner peace." It was founded in 1975 by Mickey Singer. I met people there who became forever friends, like the famous Walter Busby whom I met in January, 1978. I credit Walter with teaching me what it means to "be here now." I once wrote an article explaining how he accomplished it using a bowl of cucumber soup as an example. If you would like to read it, it's at Click on "Taste the Soup."

Soon I was driving back and forth from Gainesville to the Temple three times a week. I decided I'd prefer to have a house near the Temple in the quiet little town of Hague. I guess I was in the flow because a man, a surveyor by trade, popped right into my life. His life-long dream was to build a house from scratch, all by himself. He called it his "mountain to climb." So Ray built me a beautiful two-story house of wood. When it was done, he moved away and fulfilled another dream of his, to buy a big sailboat and take off by himself for wherever the wind took him. A few years later, he died. Rest in peace, Ray.

The Temple of the Universe's website is at While you're there, you may want to read an excerpt from Mickey's new book,"The Untethered Soul:the journey beyond yourself."  It's from Chapter 15: The Path of Unconditional Happiness.

In 1978, devotees of Baba Muktananda Paramahansa had an ashram in town, the Gainesville Siddha Yoga Meditation Center at 1000 SW 9th Street, managed by Udaya "Biff" Pherigo.  They invited me to join them for chanting on March 7th. It was a celebration of Mahashivaratri, the Great Night of Lord Shiva, a holy day in the Hindu religion. We chanted the mantra Om Namah Shivaya very slowly for 12 straight hours. It opened me up to a personal experience that is one of the defining moments of my life, though not one I share often. Some devotees had met Baba when he made his first trip to the United States in 1970. Gordon and I would meet him in Miami in 1981. He died in India in October, 1982. 

Around that time, I left my job as Office Manager of Shands Hospital Blood Bank to be part of a team of eight whose mission was to organize a community blood bank. It felt like right livelihood to me. Civitan Regional Blood Center (now LifeSouth Community Blood Center) is a hugh success story. From the original eight serving our local hospitals with blood and blood products, it has grown to be the blood supplier for hospitals in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. It was the most challenging job I ever had and the only one I ever got fired from. That's another story about how astrologer David Cochrane taught me how to withdraw my energy from the blood bank that I was so attached to, so I could move on to the next step of my spiritual growth. It worked and only took a couple of weeks. Thanks, David!

During the time the LIST was published in Gainesville, it was easy to find the people who offered products and services that were still considered outside the mainstream. After the 1980 issue, I can't find any new age/holistic newspapers in my collection until 1982. I know that during the missing years, Gainesville was an overflowing melting pot for spiritual exploration. Was I too immersed in my happy new life with Gordon to notice anything else?

Were there other papers then?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Be Here Now & Read Autobiography of a Yogi

At Santa Fe Community College, a lot of the cool kids were raving about a new book with a purple cover called "Remember, Be Here Now." I was so not cool, but wanted to look cool, so I bought the book in 1972 and carried it around, hoping someone would notice. I tried to read it but it was too far out for me then. I wasn't ready for Ram Dass and, to be perfectly honest, I didn't understand what "being here now" meant. One section of the book had brown pages and reminded me of a coloring book so I colored pictures of lotus flowers and caterpillars, ignoring my old conditioning that warned me that nice girls never write in books (or God forbid, color outside the lines).

"Be Here Now" was one of the most influential books of the 1970s . It spoke to a generation's search for meaningful spirituality. Later it became one of my favorite books as well. Later still, one of the great joys of my life was going to Tampa, Florida with Gordon to hear a lecture by Ram Dass. He was down-to-earth and funny. We all laughed when he said, "I only have two different talks, the five dollar one and the ten dollar one. This is the five dollar one." After the talk, I happily waited in line for one of his neverending hugs. I'll never forget it. It was the kind of unrushed hug where you know the other person will not break away first.

We saw Ram Dass again when he came to Gainesville on Feb. 2, 2003. “An Evening with Ram Dass” was presented by the University of Florida Center for Spirituality and Health. More than 2000 of us gathered at the Reitz Union ballroom on UF’s campus. The evening turned into an unplanned reunion for everyone who had ever been part of the new age/holistic/metaphysical commmunity who had not moved away. Many of us had been touched deeply in the past by the messages of this wonderful teacher we had come to see. Ram Dass was there to speak about his encounters with Eastern religion, his dedication to compassionate service, and his experiences with conscious aging, illness and death. He shared from his book "Still Here," which he was led to write when he was "stroked" in 1997 and how the massive stroke caused him to slow down and settle into the moment.  The book was aimed at the growing numbers of aging baby boomers and their collective fears about getting older, with the possibly of having a debilitating end-of-life illness, and ultimately, their own death.

My dear friend, Rev. Linda Joy, described Ram Dass as "shimmering with Light as he sat in his wheelchair." I could not have found truer words for this man we loved. Linda Joy reminded me that George Tortorelli played the opening flute that night, followed by a showing of the 2001 documentary "Ram Dass:Fierce Grace." The movie followed Ram Dass from his childhood as Richard Alpert, the son of an affluent Boston lawyer, through his days as a Harvard faculty member who, with Timothy Leary, was expelled in 1963 for experimenting with LSD.  After traveling to India he met his guru, Maharaji Neem Karoli Baba (called Maharaji) and was given the name Ram Dass, which means Servant of God. The movie chronicled the "glory days of hippiedom" through the use of archival film of the counter-culture of the sixties and seventies.

Early in the movie we heard the often-read compassionate letter that Ram Dass wrote to comfort the family of a murdered daughter. If you have never read his touching "Rachel's Letter" it can be found at:
Ram Dass' official website is 

By my late twenties, I had outgrown the church of my parents' preference, as well as the "once-removed" church I tried next. Still, I had a spiritual longing eating away at me deep inside. It motivated me to explore the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in 1977. The Fellowship was on NW 43rd Street and the people were friendly and welcomed me. One Sunday, the speaker was Alice Christensen, the mother of a member of the Fellowship,  She was a disciple of Swami Rama of Haridwar, India. She was also the guru of The Light of Yoga Society. I had no idea a woman could be a guru, yet there she was, an American yogini wearing regular clothes, standing right in front of me. We were starting to attract some very interesting spiritual teachers to Gainesville.

(In 1982 the Society was renamed the American Yoga Association. Their two centers are located in Sarasota, Florida, and Cleveland Heights, Ohio. )
I was drawn to Guru Alice, so after the service I went up to her to ask the question that nagged at me. I told her I was confused about what to do to find my true spiritual path. Could she suggest something that might help me? She looked me straight in the eye and without hesitation calmly said, "Read Autobiography of a Yogi" by Paramahansa Yogananda. So I did.

Then Suzy Coleman (now the talented artist called Aliye Cullu) turned me on to Yogananda's Self-Realization Fellowship lessons which she had studied, so I subscribed to them by correspondence. I learned about Kriya Yoga. I fasted. I became a vegetarian. Most of all, I learned to meditate and a new inner world opened up for me. Soon I learned there was a Gainesville group dedicated to studying the teachings of Yogananda.

Seems groups were sprouting here for every possible spiritual path one could think of that might be considered outside the mainstream. We had then, and still have, many wonderful mainstream houses of worship for all denominations, though the Eastern teachings were relatively new here at that time. The Beatles got a lot of the credit for their popularity after they met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who introduced them to Transcendental Meditation in Rishikesh, India, in the 1960s. The Beatles spent some much-publicized time in India, making it popular for Americans to study the spiritual traditions of the East.
Today the entire text of Yogananda's life-changing autobiography can be read online for free, complete with photos, at .
Self-Realization Fellowship's website is
Aliye's beautiful paintings can be seen at

I just discovered Yogananda himself chanting "O God Beautiful" on YouTube! What a surprise!
Here are the words and the link to the video which has many beautiful still photos of Yogananda.
O God Beautiful
(From Nanak’s Song)
O God Beautiful; O God Beautiful;
At Thy feet, O I do bow.
In the forest Thou art green;
In the mountain Thou art high;
In the river Thou art restless;
In thy ocean Thou art grave.
O God Beautiful; O God Beautiful!
At Thy feet, O I do bow!
O God Beautiful; O God Beautiful
To the serviceful Thou art service;
To the lover Thou art love;
To the sorrowful Thou art sympathy;
To the yogi Thou art bliss.