I grew up on what’s best described as a hippy commune called the Temple of Yoga in Coconut Grove, Florida (where I happen to be right now). This broke up when I was about 6 or 7, when my parents split. The guru, a kind-hearted Indian man named Babaji has lived with a vow of silence for about 40 years now. He writes on a chalk board to communicate. Babaji moved with most of the founders to Santa Cruz, California and established Mount Madonna Center. MMC now serves as an elite school, retreat center and pilgrimage site for NoCal Hindus, particularly followers of Hanuman, the monkey god from the Ramayana.
I pretended to be a student at Reed College when I was 19, living with two Reedies, spending nights honing my pool game in the student union fueled by liters of coffee and writing all over the walls, which was allowed, even encouraged. All I could find was part time work at a German pastry shop and coffee roastery and I lived on about $20/week for food (lots of beans and rice). You might have heard me on the college’s radio once or seen me riding my Nighthawk 550 through the mud on campus, or “auditing” a class in the back of the room. The experience convinced me I wanted a liberal arts degree (for real) and my choice came down to Reed or Bard. Bard won mostly because they had a men’s volleyball team and strong professors in literature and Asian Studies.
I dropped out of a PhD program in Buddhist Studies at the University of Virginia after only 6 months, moved to New York City and got my first gallery job.
I’ve been a tourist and done business in about 46 countries on 6 continents, and I have a lot of friends who are more well traveled than me. I speak 4 foreign languages like an enthusiastic toddler (give me a few drinks and some time to beef up vocab in country and I do better).
My childhood friend Noah and I inserted firecrackers in “turpentine” (inedible diseased) mangos and would throw these at friends and occasionally drop them out of trees onto cars. This practice stopped with one particularly angry and terrifying driver. Nobody got hurt.
A woman on a third class train in China, traveling from Xian to Beijing, held a lengthy conversation with me about the conflicting values of Buddhism and Communism. We sat on wooden benches. I remember a child’s urine meandering across the floor like an alluvial pattern on a map. Kids peed where they stood, the train was so packed. Coal soot poured through the window’s bars, blackening my face. Towards the end of our journey, she asked me if I was a monk from Xinjiang Province (Chinese Turkestan).
I was struck by lightning climbing Corrugation Corner at Lover’s Leap in the Sierra Nevadas. I panicked, climbed the final pitch in a hail storm, got hypothermia, but lived.
Tight crowded spaces scare me and I need my back to a wall. Conversely, I love the vastness of mountains and being away from people in nature.