Chapter 23: Living in
the Material World...
the lull before the storm
LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD
Written by Rick Archer
I was certain the
strange connection between Vicky and myself had not been an
accident. I was absolutely convinced the Unseen World had sent
me to Vicky's side in the exact same way the Unseen World had once sent Mrs. Ballantyne to my side.
The Sťance incident became Supernatural Event #15 on my List with a
Five Star rating, the maximum. This evening had been weird
beyond weird in so many different ways.
For one thing, I had
gotten my wish answered. Realizing my considerable debt to
Mrs. Ballantyne, I had recently asked for a chance to one day 'Pay
it Forward.' To my surprise, my wish had been granted
There was a clear parallel
between the two incidents. Mrs. Ballantyne had been shocked to
discover she was talking to a boy who had a background nearly
identical to her own. Then she turned around and rescued me
Now the same thing had
happened to me in reverse. What were the odds I would meet a young girl
who walked a path so strikingly similar to my own unusual childhood?
And why was Vicky so powerfully drawn to me? The moment I saw
what a lost soul Vicky was, my heart had gone out to her. I had always wondered why Mrs. Ballantyne had given so much of her
time to me back in that Weingarten's parking lot. Now I had my
goodness I had found the same empathy within me for Vicky that Mrs.
Ballantyne once felt. I saw myself in Vicky and wanted to
help. Talking to
Vicky like I did was the first truly decent thing I had ever done
for someone else. Thanks to that strangest of nights, I could
not help but think I had played a brief but critical role in Vicky's
life in much the same way as Mrs. Ballantyne had done for me.
However, I am forced to
admit I badly dropped the ball after that. I never saw
Vicky again. Although I had done a good job of encouraging
Vicky on Sťance Night, afterwards I deliberately avoided the girl
due to the terrible
specter of death surrounding her mother. That summer I worked at
Uncle Dick's data processing center in Arlington, Virginia. I
spent the entire summer kicking myself for running away from Vicky. When I returned to Hopkins to start my
Junior year, it was too late. My visit to the Quaker Meeting
confirmed that Vicky's mother had died. I also learned that Vicky
had moved to Canada to live with her distant relatives. What
an ordeal this girl had faced... alone. To this day, I
regret my unwillingness to check on Vicky again.
The main outcome of Sťance Night was the development of my social
conscience. My experience with
Vicky had elevated me. I had finally learned
the value of caring about someone else for a change. After reading about the
thousands of lives that Edgar Cayce had touched,
I now realized I wished to help
other people as well. The time had come to
quit feeling sorry for myself all the time and begin to find ways to
contribute. By chance, on the same morning I learned that Vicky had left
Baltimore, I discovered there was a day care center at the
Quaker Meeting. On the spot, I volunteered to help one
afternoon a week. It was a start.
The 1970 Sťance incident
involving Terry was
the only paranormal experience of my life. Unfortunately, since I have no psychic ability of my own, I have no
way of knowing what really happened that night. Whether I was
visited by the actual ghost of my dog I cannot be sure.
In the darkness, I
saw and heard nothing. I felt nothing but cold air.
All I can say is that the
incident unfolded exactly as I have written. Something highly out of the ordinary
took place; that much I am sure of. Either Terry
really did appear or Vicky read my mind and used the
information to make up a terrible fib. Since I do not believe
Vicky had any reason to trick me, I believe I was visited by
the ghost of my dog.
Although I do
not possess the power to confirm the existence of an afterlife, the
Sťance experience gave me a
to consider an Unseen World really does exist.
I continued my
Magical Mystery Tour reading project
throughout my Junior year.
To my delight, I read where Edgar Cayce
confirmed the existence of animal souls. Cayce said
there is a phenomenon known as 'soul progression' where humans
evolve through many incarnations. Cayce said the same thing is true for
animals. Cayce added that close contact with humans will
dramatically accelerate an
If that was the
case, then Terry had definitely earned his stripes by taking
care of me. Wouldn't it be nice if
Edgar Cayce was right? I would be so grateful to know that my
years spent with Terry helped fast-track my beloved dog down
his own spiritual path.
Lord knows Terry was not only
incredibly smart, Terry had a loyalty within him that was profound.
For the nine roughest years of my
life, Terry was my constant companion. I would have never made it without
him. Terry was such a special dog, the very best.
I firmly believe Terry was put on this earth to take care of
me. I owe Terry so much.
It was January 1945.
The Battle of the Bulge was the last major German offensive campaign
during World War II. It was launched through the densely
forested Ardennes region in eastern Belgium towards the end of the war. The surprise attack
in the dead of winter caught the Allied forces completely
off guard. American forces bore the brunt of the attack.
With their defenses down, they
incurred their highest casualties of the war.
My father's unit of
fresh recruits was quickly dispatched to reinforce the beleaguered
Allied forces. My father had only been in Belgium for a couple
weeks when he was told to join a patrol sent through the deep snow
of the Ardennes forest.
As my father's unit made its way through the
thick snow of this winter wonderland, a shot
rang out from a thicket of trees.
The bullet hit my father in his right hip
just barely above the leg.
father was knocked off his feet. He fell to the ground
writhing in pain. Unable to walk, he summoned every
ounce of will to crawl towards a nearby log for protection.
It was a good thing Dad moved because
another shot whizzed right past him.
The sniper was trying to finish the job.
The sniper did
not get another shot off because my father's comrades began
retaliate. They inundated the spot where the shot had
come from with a hail of bullets. Then they carefully
explored the area to find the sniper. All they found
was packed snow and two empty shells behind a tree.
couldn't walk, so they carried him back to camp. The pain was
overwhelming. It took everything my father had in him not to
scream. Seeing his agony, every man in the unit made
sure to express their sympathy and encouragement as they
carried him back to camp.
Now in the
hospital, Dad was in tremendous pain for days on end.
Even when the pain finally subsided, Dad was unable to get
out of bed without a wheel chair for four months. He
walked using a crutch for a year.
So I have a question.
Was this Bad Luck? Or was it Good Luck? What do
There was a old farmer in the remote Taihang
mountains of China
who used a horse to
till his fields.
Considering how rocky the soil was, this was an
One day, the horse escaped into the hills.
Now the farmer had no way to till the field. When
the farmer's neighbors sympathized with the old man
over his bad luck, the farmer
He replied, "Bad luck?
A week later, the horse
returned with a herd of wild horses from the hills.
The farmer put them all in a corral. This time the
neighbors congratulated the farmer on his good luck.
"Good luck? Bad luck?
Soon after, the farmer's son
attempted to tame one of the wild
horses. The mustang reared up and threw the boy
off its back. The boy
hit the ground hard and broke his leg.
As the boy screamed in pain,
everyone agreed this
was very bad luck. Now
the old man had no one to help him.
wasn't so sure. With his whimsical smile,
as usual the farmer's only reaction was, "Bad luck?
luck? Who knows?"
Some weeks later,
there was a Mongol invasion. The
local army marched into the village and conscripted
every able-bodied youth they could find. When they saw the farmer's son
was unable to walk on his
badly broken leg, they didn't
give him a second glance. In
the Chinese army, everyone had to march.
boy was left behind.
Good luck or bad
luck? Who can say?
In my father's
case, Dad told me
without hesitation that this injury was
the luckiest break of his life. Why? Because it got
him out of the war with his life, body, and pride intact.
My father's next stop would be college care of Uncle Sam.
Many of Dad's friends in
the unit weren't quite so fortunate. Their next stop was a
snow-covered grave in the Ardennes forest.
It was March
1971. Here in the second half of my Junior year at
Hopkins, I was studying in the Hutzler Reading Room. It was
late in the afternoon and pretty soon I would be heading to the gym
tired of studying. Taking a break, I sat back and reminded
myself I had no job lined up for the summer. I asked myself what sort of job I would
like. After daydreaming for a moment, an unusual idea crossed my mind.
Wouldn't it be cool to
be a camp counselor?
A big smile crossed my face. Very
I had spent my
life inside the protective walls of Johns Hopkins and St. John's. Wouldn't it be great to get outdoors
for a change? Canoes, swimming, archery, softball, basketball,
hikes, practical jokes, marshmallows, campfires,
singing, and, best of all, ghost stories.
The very thought of it all had me smiling,
so I continued to daydream.
I like to go to be a camp counselor? Well, Colorado, of course.
Now that was a fun thought. I had visited Colorado several times as a boy with the
Clark family and went
absolutely nuts over the magnificent mountains. To me,
Colorado was the most beautiful place on earth.
Camp counselor... what an odd
thought. I had never thought of being a camp
counselor in my life. To begin with, I had never been to a summer camp.
Nor had the idea ever been discussed in my home.
There was barely enough money to pay the bills, so entertaining
frivolous thoughts such as European vacations or Rocky Mountain ski
trips was an exercise in futility. Therefore I was not at all
prone to fanciful thinking. This explains why I became so
curious to know where this odd idea had come from. It seemed
like the idea had just popped into my head
out of nowhere.
Had this thought
occurred prior to last year's Magical Mystery Tour, I
would have dismissed it as an idle thought. However, ever
since those 14 young men in my 'Philosophy of Religion' class
had dismissed my Yogananda-Edgar Cayce 'Hidden World'
inspiration as complete hogwash, I was bound and determined to look
for evidence to support my belief system. Since the absolute
randomness of the counselor idea made it stand out, I gave it
serious scrutiny. We have a saying... 'out of thin air'.
I can assert without hesitation the thought of being a camp
counselor had never occurred in my life. Therefore I wondered
if someone had put the idea in my head.
To be honest, I have no
idea where original thoughts really come from. That said, I
had the impression the counselor thought was either sent
telepathically from beyond or perhaps it originated from my Higher
Self. As further events unfolded, that impression was
My mind began to
evaluate whether the idea was realistic or not. As I rolled this unusual idea around, I agreed it sounded like fun, but my
practical side dismissed it as absurd. How silly to even imagine.
What were the chances of finding a job like that?
thing, there wasn't much time left. This was
March. Summer was just around the corner. Furthermore, I had
absolutely no idea where to even begin looking. Since I had
never been to summer camp, I did not know the name
or location of a single place. Nor
did I know anyone who had ever been to a summer camp.
I did not have the slightest idea how to go about applying.
with some research, I could come up with the addresses of
several camps in the Maryland area. But why
bother? Even if I
went to the trouble of sending a letter to a total stranger, why would they hire
me? I had no connections and no one to recommend me.
Furthermore, what exactly did I have to offer that made me special?
I knew nothing about being a camp counselor.
My practical side suggested that
most camp counselors were chosen in-house. In other words,
any college student who had previously attended a particular summer camp as a
teenager would have the inside track. If they had made a good impression
as a camp kid,
would surely be the first person asked to return in the counselor
Oh well. My camp counselor
idea was a nice fantasy, but far-fetched at best. It
seemed like a complete waste of time to give it another
thought, so I got up and headed over to play basketball.
The entire idea was soon forgotten.
Two weeks passed.
Friends Meeting where I visited on Sundays had a day care center.
Back in September I had felt very guilty for deserting
Vicky last summer. The thought that I had forced her to
face her mother's death alone weighed heavy on my conscience.
Looking for a way to atone for my cowardice, helping out with this
day care center seemed like a good idea. Normally pick-up
basketball was my afternoon activity, but I was doing this volunteer
work on a part-time basis as a new way to snap myself out of my constant loneliness.
I liked playing with the kids and it was a fun thing
to do one afternoon a week. One day I was playing with
Eric, age 4, my favorite kid. I made a point to seek Eric out
whenever I was there. Great kid, all boy. I loved
to chase Eric through the elevated playhouse, across the hanging
wood bridge and through the tunnel, etc. I could be a great
monster when given the chance, but today was special. It was
springtime and I was in rare form.
I'm gonna get you, Eric, and when I get you, I'm gonna sit on you!!"
squealed with delight as I lumbered after him, growling
the whole time how I wanted to catch him and sit on him.
Eric and I had a standing joke that monsters were so
stupid they thought 'babysitting' meant sitting on the
right in the middle of monster mania when Eric's mother
called out to her son that it was time to go, Eric immediately
began to protest. "I don't want to go, Mommy.
I want to stay here and play monster with Rick!"
Eric's protest was a part of our little game. The three of us went through this
practically every time Jennifer appeared.
Today I noticed Jennifer had a lady friend with her. The
woman was about 30, a couple years older than Jennifer.
Lonely as always, I could not help but
notice that this lady was very pretty. I sighed
appreciatively and wished for the millionth time that
Hopkins had coeds. Then I blushed when I realized this new lady
had been watching our game of monsters. Good
grief. She must think I was the silliest boy on
hugged his mother's waist, Jennifer noticed
my appreciative gaze at the new lady. Jennifer decided to make an
"Rick, this is my
sister Mary Colvig. She is visiting me here in Baltimore for a
I smiled. I introduced myself and we shook
to Baltimore! Where are you from,
quickly furrowed. Colorado? I instantly had
goose bumps as my mind recalled that weird thought from
two weeks ago.
When I was a boy, I visited Colorado on four different
summers with the Clarks, a family I am close to. I absolutely love
Colorado. In fact, I was thinking
of applying to graduate school in Colorado. What do you do
"My husband Craig
and I run a summer camp in Durango."
My eyes widened and my heart skipped a
beat. No way... but I had to ask.
"No kidding? Gee,
that's an odd coincidence. I was thinking of
working as a camp
counselor this summer. I've been to Durango and I love
that area. Do you have any openings?"
answer, I stopped breathing. Was I dreaming?
Tell me this is not happening.
by chance we
do! But we are leaving town tomorrow. Can you come over to Jennifer's house tonight and
speak to my husband Craig while we're still in Baltimore?"
Before I could
answer, Jennifer spoke up.
"Oh, Mary, I
think Rick would be a terrific counselor. He loves
kids and the kids here at the day school adore him.
Just look at Eric; Eric goes nuts over him."
At this comment,
Mary broke into broad smile. She knew what Jennifer
was up to, but didn't mind a bit. If anything, Mary
appreciated hearing her sister's ringing endorsement.
So did I.
Wow! Nice timing on the compliment. I smiled at
Jennifer and whispered a discreet 'Thank you very much!'
I talked with
Mary's husband Craig that night. He liked me and,
boom, just like that, I got the job. I would spend my
entire summer working at their camp in Durango, Colorado.
What an amazing
coincidence! In fact, it was such an improbable break
to see my afternoon daydream come true, I listed it as
Supernatural Event #16, Four Star Rating.
This had been an
unusual stroke of good luck. I never even had to
lift a finger. Instead the job had appeared out of nowhere.
Wouldn't it be nice if everything in life was this easy??
Well, maybe it is
just the time of year
Or maybe it's the time of man
I don't know who l am
But you know life is for learning.
-- Woodstock, Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell said
Life is for learning. My favorite book Autobiography of a Yogi said the same thing, adding
that Reincarnation is part of the game. Through all our ups and
downs, Hindu philosophy indicates we are here to learn something
whether we like it or not.
I assumed this
unexpected summer camp counselor job was Good Luck in its
purest form. I
can't even begin to describe how excited I was to get that job.
What a wonderful lucky break!! Or
so I thought.
But guess what?
That job made me absolutely miserable!!
I learned some very
bitter lessons that summer. My problems started the moment
I got there. To my surprise, I discovered I was the only
outsider. The other 20 counselors were all from a nearby
agricultural college. Since most of them already knew each
other, they were a very tight-knit group. While I
spent my time writing philosophy papers and contemplating God's will, these counselors were agriculture and veterinary
majors who were learning how to make a living in this
environment. They were all life-long Boy Scouts and Girl
Scouts who knew how to ride horses and take care themselves in
the Colorado wilderness.
On the other
hand, I was an introverted philosophy major from an elite
Eastern university who suddenly found himself placed in the
Land of the Future Farmers of America. I could not
have possibly been more different. While I spent the
majority of my time questioning the meaning of life, I doubt
seriously these young men and women spent much time in
metaphysical contemplation. Consequently I had no idea how to relate to the people
world. Although I had the sense to keep my
unusual ideas to myself, these Colorado college kids still
had a funny vibe about me. I was different, I stuck
which sticks out the
furthest is invariably the one that gets pounded the hardest. There
were three young men in particular who picked on me
unmercifully. Jack was their ringleader.
He was a mean-spirited malcontent looking for
someone to bully. Once he discovered that I was
'different', this jerk thought it was his
duty to remind me
every chance he got that I didn't belong here.
Since I was such a greenhorn, I was easy pickings.
As the teasing became meaner through my three month
stay, I found myself at a loss. Confrontation
was not something I handled very well. I
did not have a clue how to cope other than retreat into sullen silence
As the only city slicker in the bunch, I was
completely out of my element. My ignorance of the
Great Outdoors showed up in all sorts of embarrassing
ways. I cannot even begin to share the fear I
felt when Jack dared me to get on a horse. I
had never been on a horse in my life.
When that horse took off at full gallop, I was sure it
was curtains for me. While I hung on for dear
life, the other counselors thought that was hysterical.
Thanks, guys, I could have been hurt. Not that
There was one
development that completely blew my mind. I was so indoctrinated
into my Hopkins world without females, the presence of
female camp counselors had not even occurred to me beforehand. And guess what?
The two prettiest counselors thought I was cute.
In the first week of camp, Patricia invited me to
join her for
a long walk in the woods. She even brought
some pot along, but I turned it down. You see,
I was so locked into becoming a spiritual person, I
did not touch drugs or alcohol. Meanwhile,
Patricia was high as a kite and ready for action. I never
made a move.
A couple days later,
asked me to go for walk. I really liked Nancy.
She exuded warmth and kindness. I was alone in
the woods with a girl I really liked... and did I take advantage of the
Nancy was a born listener. I was so angry at those three
young men for picking on me that I spent the entire
walk complaining about them. No doubt the entire time
Nancy was hoping I would shut up and do something bold like hold
her hand. I never made a move.
Both girls gave up on me.
Do you blame them? To my dismay, they found
themselves agreeing with the male counselors
that I was weird. There was something wrong
with me. To my dismay, I realized they were
right. Ever since Emily broke my heart in my
Freshman year, two and a half years had passed
without a date. I had been able to hide from
this fact at Hopkins, but not here. At Colvig
Camps, my fear of women was painfully exposed.
nine years being the underdog at St. John's
combined with my dating problems at Hopkins had left
mental scars that were tough to overcome.
Of course I blamed my problems on my acne scars.
But now things were worse. The interest of Nancy and Patricia had challenged my mindset
that my facial scars were holding me back. Since both
asked me to take them for a walk, obviously they found me
attractive at first.
Therefore when Nancy and Patricia rejected me, it
had nothing to do with my looks, but rather how I treated them.
This was a crushing blow. I had no idea how to be a friend to
these young women. This served as a
painful reminder of how unbelievably clueless I
was around girls my age.
I felt so
bitter. By the time summer was over, I
felt just as ostracized by the Aggies at this camp as I
had ever felt snubbed by the Preppies at St. John's.
I wanted to be accepted, but that wasn't going to happen.
In other words, my
Good Luck to land this unexpected dream job had turned into Bad
that exposed glaring weaknesses in my social skills. This job was a
really bad break! Or was it? Joni Mitchell
would say Life is for Learning. Whether I liked it
or not, I had been
given valuable insights into specific areas where I
needed to improve.
Fortunately the summer was not a total loss.
Rejected by my peers, I poured my energy into the
kids. My popularity with the kids was a
mystery to those counselors who wrote me off as a
loser. So how did this happen?
Well, answer this question... what kind of kids go
to summer camp?
Who else has parents who can afford a ritzy place like this?
And which camp counselor had NINE YEARS of experience being
around rich kids? Now you're catching on. By a twist
of fate, my time at St. John's allowed me to relate effortlessly
to the kids at camp. While many of the other male
counselors were flat-footed when it came to relating to the
Junior Preppies, I had a direct pipeline to what made them tick.
In addition, I was still a kid at heart. I was going to my first summer camp and I wore my
enthusiasm on my sleeve. To deal with the rejection of my
contented myself by having all kinds of fun with the boys in my cabin.
I became the best older brother ever.
Sometimes we went on long mountain climbs. Other
times we played hide and seek or blind man's bluff. Each night I would read ghost stories
to the boys and scare them silly.
background with mythology came in handy. At the
big camp-wide 'Capture the Flag' contest, all
the kids and counselors were divided into two teams.
The older boys from my cabin nominated me as
Captain. Good move. I had the
nerve to use strategy. Recalling the sacking
of Troy, I devised a wicked plan. First I made
my own guys the captains of three different
units and told them to sneak up from behind and
Then I chose three girls who were born
to be my Trojan Horse. The girls followed
my orders beautifully. They pretended to sneak
up from the
front. They were so bad at it, they were immediately caught.
These three girls
had way too much fun with this. They cried and wailed and
complained and begged be let go. I could hear them all the
way on the other side of the camp. They made such a fuss
over getting caught, every boy on the other team
tried to cheer them up over the shame of being
caught. Meanwhile every girl on the other team
watched in disgust.
The camp counselors
should have known better. They fell for it too. They laughed
hysterically at the 'stupidity' of the decoy girls who
thought they could walk right in and steal the flag. The distraction worked to
The other team was so busy obsessing over this exciting
capture that the guards completely ignored the three attack groups
sweeping in from different
directions to grab the flag. The kids called
me their 'Fearless Leader'.
I wasn't done yet. For the big campfire
songfest, I taught the older boys the words to The Last Kiss, a corny
song about a guy who loses his girlfriend in a car
crash. On the surface, this was a really sad
song. However, I showed the boys how play the song for laughs.
During rehearsal, the boys had so much fun wailing
for their lost love that I told them they were
So here comes the
big campfire sing-a-long. I groaned at some of the lame
'Leaving on a Jet Plane', 'Puff the Magic Dragon',
'Jeremiah was a Bullfrog' and so on. These songs
were so syrupy I developed a case of diabetes just
listening. Then up to the stage came my five boys.
where oh can my baby be?
The Lord took her away from me!!
She's gone to Heaven so I gotta be good
so I can see my baby when I lee-eave uh this a world
first the girls
screamed at the boys like they were the Beatles.
I could tell the girls were
screaming just to be funny. But their enthusiasm inspired the boys to
greater heights. They hammed it up and began singing
directly to the pretty teenage girls in front. The
result was electrifying. Seeing the boys croon to them with
passion and bare their hearts with painful teenage lament, those
girls went absolutely nuts! The boys were so good, pretty
soon the girls nearly passed out from screaming and laughing so
favorite part was watching the faces of the other counselors.
They looked at each other bewildered. They knew this song
too, but to them it was a tragic song, certainly not a song to
laugh at. They had no idea that the song could be played
for satire. Score one for cynical city slickers.
The boys in my cabin gave me undying
loyalty for bestowing instant rock star popularity on them.
Seriously, the other counselors were
astonished at how much the kids liked me. They
had no idea that my Prep School background was the secret of my
I had discovered a
secret talent for creating excitement. As one might
gather, I was receiving an early glimpse of the skills I would
one day use to create my dance studio. Despite my
shortcomings, I had a good heart and wanted to do good things.
If I could just find a way to gain confidence around people my
own age, I believed I had a lot to offer.
However, my popularity backfired in a way.
Although most of
the counselors simply left me alone, the three who disliked me
intensified their bullying tactics. I was unhappy much of the time because I had no
idea how to handle the taunts of the bullies. It was
painful to see how socially awkward I was around my peers.
I was the least popular counselor at the same time I was the
most popular counselor. As they say, Life is for Learning.
That is me in the far back.
Most of the counselors were okay. Since I
was 'different', they just left me alone.
Nevertheless, I knew
my place... in back.
Mary Colvig (owner of the camp), and Patricia.
I had a shot at these two pretty girls and blew it.
my button down shirt... always the Preppie
are the Junior Preppies
I was so
stupid I never knew girls would be here too
Kiss' turned these boys into Rock Stars.
Garth, the blond kid next to me, was worshipped.
SENIOR YEAR AT JOHNS HOPKINS
This had been a very
strange summer. My difficulties at
Colvig Silver Camp marked a dramatic cooling to my Magical
It is embarrassing to
admit this, but I was a victim of my zeal to become a better person.
I wasn't 'holier than thou', but I was trying very hard to
follow a spiritual path thanks to my admiration for Yogananda.
In particular, after being immersed in the Eastern concept of
non-violence for the past two years, I had decided it would make me
more spiritual to 'turn the other cheek'
at all times. This was not a problem at Hopkins where no one
ever bothered me. However, camp counselor Jack turned out to
be the second coming of Harold, the boy who had labeled me the 'Creepy Loser Kid'
back in high school. Taunting me unmercifully at every turn,
Jack really got under my skin.
I wanted to hurt Jack in
the worst way. However, I was unable
to lash back due to my spiritual values. Taunted at every turn
and never retaliating, over the summer my anger mounted. By
the end, I found myself locked in my latest deep depression.
And then the memory of
those two pretty girls haunted me. Nancy in particular had really liked
me. She was a quiet, gentle girl who was 'different'
as well, although certainly not to the same extent.
She was sensitive to the feelings of others, a quality I
admired. During the initial part of our long walk in the woods, Nancy seemed
very happy to be alone with me. However, I used the
opportunity to unload all my hostility towards Jack. I complained the entire time about how Jack and his
cronies were treating me. Not exactly the swiftest romantic
move. Although Nancy remained my friend throughout the summer,
the spark she had shown at the beginning was gone. I spent the
next three months kicking myself for throwing away a golden
opportunity with this special girl.
When I returned to
Hopkins for my Senior year, I felt like such a failure. I had
no idea how to cope with the three bullies, I had no idea how to relate to
the other counselors, and I was a total zero with the girls.
I was disillusioned and disgusted with my well-intentioned... but misguided... decision to
walk a 'Spiritual Path'. Whatever I was doing, it
wasn't working. What my miserable summer had taught me was
that I was not cut out to be a saint. It was time I learned
live in the Material World.
My deflating summer as a
camp counselor took the wind out of my sails. I was so
humiliated to see my spiritual path backfire that it took all the
fun out of reading books on the Occult. From this point on, I
concentrated on my Hopkins studies instead. My Senior year was
about as ho-hum as it possibly could be. There were no
miracles and no problems.
Since I still
believed the spiritual values I had studied were important, I
kept one foot in the Mystic World and one foot in the Real World.
My first step was to put
my Mysticism books away and quit trying to be a spiritual
goody-two-shoes. If someone pushed me, I pushed back. I
even went back out to Goucher and dated with so-so results. By
dating three girls much younger than me, I avoided getting my
feelings hurt. However nothing really clicked.
Three times a week I
drove out to Koinonia, a
Christian community hidden deep in the Maryland woods. Here I
would meditate in the early morning. Afterwards I would chat
with my friend Erik, another Seeker on the Path.
Erik had done me a real
favor. Here in his Senior year, Erik had been allowed to move
out to Koinonia on a full-time basis. His sudden decision
left Bill and Allan, his two roommates, needing a third roommate at
the last minute. Erik suggested that Bill and Alan
ask me to take his place. Suddenly I fould myself sharing a
house with two guys my age.
This became the bright
spot in my Senior year. Although this
house on the edge of town was normal in size, the expanse
surrounding it was so immense that we felt like we lived on an
estate. With no other house even remotely near us, we called
our house 'The Manor' and pretended we were important country
My roommates had
converted the dining room into my bedroom. In order to get to the kitchen at 'The Manor',
they had to walk through my room. Fortunately Alan and Bill
were very respectful of my space. They kept their visits
to a minimum and always remembered to knock first.
Consequently, not once was my unusual room placement
Right now my biggest problem in
life was learning how to be 'different' and fit in at the
same time. Bill and Alan were invaluable in this regard.
To my relief, Bill and Alan 'understood' me. Thanks to Erik, they
were already used to having a weird roommate. Therefore they had no
problems adjusting to my idiosyncrasies.
One thing that helped
was that both of my new roommates were in awe of my intense approach
to my studies. As we got to know each other,
I noticed Alan would
sometimes pass by me, then turn around and stand in
the kitchen doorway to watch me study for a moment. I
didn't care; let him watch. After a month of this,
Alan decided to speak up.
definitely have your quirks, but your work ethic is amazing.
I think you have more determination in you than any person I have
ever met. I
predict you will be very successful some day."
Bill and Alan took a shine to me.
began to coach
me on how to handle different social situations.
Since they were Jersey guys, they were sarcastic like me.
Speaking my language, they made it their project to teach me how to fake being normal.
I noted the hidden message... there was no way I would ever be
normal normal, so fake normal was the best I could hope for.
with Bill and Alan was wonderful. For the first in my
life, I had a chance to be one of the guys. I was
beyond grateful for their help in the socialization process.
When we weren't
watching basketball on TV, we talked about girls and dating over
dinner. Sometimes we would have friends over and play touch football on the huge lawn
in front of our house.
Although my Senior year spent at 'The Manor' was
idyllic time for me, I think my No Thrills Senior year did
me a disservice. I had gotten into constant trouble back at
St. John's, but I breezed through college. I graduated
from Hopkins without a single incident. I assumed this
indicated that I had matured and that my problems dealing with
authority at St. John's were
pretty much behind me.
Nothing could be further
from the truth.
THE MENTAL HOSPITAL
Alan's comment on my
work ethic was one of the nicest compliments ever given to me.
Yes, I did hope to be successful someday. Ever since my 'Susan
and the Witch' awakening two years ago, I had my sights on
becoming a therapist. I very much wanted to help people.
However, my career as a graduate student would have to wait. I
was sick of school. Although I graduated from Hopkins with
honors and achieved high marks on my Graduate Record Exam, I decided
to take a year off before starting Graduate School.
Be that as it may, I
knew I wanted to pursue a career in Psychology. So when I
returned to Houston for a one year Interlude, the first thing I did was get a job
as an attendant at a local mental hospital. I worked at TRIMS,
a State-sponsored training hospital. I figured it would
help to get some experience in my chosen field before entering
This turned out to be a
good idea. Now that I had left the protective ivy-covered
walls of the university, I saw a side to life I never knew existed.
Recalling how lonely and unhappy I had been throughout college, I
met people with problems vastly more serious than my own.
If there was one thing I learned, there are extremes within the
human mind that exist far beyond my comprehension. The
following story is a perfect example.
One patient, Johnny, 15,
younger than the rest of the patients. He was a short,
pale, non-descript kid with jet black hair. Johnny really liked me
because I was the only one remotely close to his age. Oddly
enough, I didn't see anything wrong with Johnny. He seemed
normal enough to me. So I read his chart. My eyes bulged
at what I saw. Johnny had gotten so wasted on drugs that he
had driven on the wrong side of the freeway and killed two people in
a car crash. Later that morning I delicately asked Johnny to
explain why he was here at the mental hospital.
Johnny rolled his eyes.
"My father's an attorney. He wants to keep me out of jail, so
he got me placed here before the trial to help bolster his insanity
plea. My father is convinced I can get a lighter sentence this
way. You know how that goes, if I'm insane, then I don't have
to be responsible for my actions."
Another patient was
Letty, short for Leticia. Letty was a short Hispanic woman,
dark hair, dark-skinned, plump and very unattractive. The poor
woman walked around in a daze. I never heard her say a word
and there was nothing in her eyes. If there was a spark of
light in this woman, it was well-hidden. To me, it was like
staring at someone in a walking coma. Typically this ward only
accepted people who had a fighting chance, Johnny for example, but Letty looked like a lost cause.
I asked one of the nurses
what Letty was doing here. The nurse whispered that Letty had just given birth to her ninth child before being sent to
this mental hospital. Nine children? Unbelievable.
But there was no law against having too many children, so why was
she here? Looking for answers, I opened her chart. There on top
of the chart was a note in giant red block letters with this warning -
Do not under any circumstances allow this woman anywhere
near a man!!
What on earth??
As I read further, I
gasped. Letty had given birth to nine different illegitimate
children fathered by nine different men, most of whom she had met in
mental hospitals or halfway houses. Talk about rampant
fertility! Every one of those children had been taken away
from Letty and become wards of the State. Now the State of
Texas wanted to forcibly tie her tubes and put Baby Mama out of
commission permanently. Letty was here at the hospital pending
an upcoming insanity trial to obtain legal permission to do just that.
After watching Letty
wander around, I concluded the woman was completely and utterly out
of her mind. I wondered if she had any idea the fate that was
awaiting her. Hopped up on thorazine, she was little better than a
could not detect any sign of any mental activity. To me, Letty
was walking dead. With that thought, I shuddered.
I could not imagine what one of Letty's children would be like.
All I knew is
I sure wouldn't want to be the sucker to adopt one of them.
One week passed.
I worked the graveyard
shift, midnight till 8 am. I made rounds
every two hours to make sure everyone was in bed.
There really wasn't much to this. If I had one problem a
month, that would be more than usual. These people were too
heavily medicated to be causing much trouble.
As I walked the
halls at 4 am, I noticed talcum powder footprints on the floor. That
powder had no business being there.
Then I heard sounds. I traced the footprints
and opened the nearest door. I froze in shock. Stunned
by the most bizarre sight I had ever witnessed, I immediately called
For some reason, I was
so shocked, I forgot to turn on the lights. In the dim light,
I saw that some woman had her bare
legs straight up in the air and was having sex with someone, but for
some strange reason I could not who it was. However I assumed
it was Letty. In addition, there was a line of four other half-clothed men
waiting to have sex. All four men had erections and
were screaming at Johnny to hurry up. Plus there were three
women who shared the room with Letty who were going nuts with
excitement at the sex show. Noticing one woman had most of her
clothes off, I assumed she was getting ready to participate as well.
Why let the buffet go to waste? In other words, I had chanced
upon a developing sex orgy.
I really don't know how
to do justice to how strange this situation was. Just use your
imagination and the worst thing you can think of is probably pretty
close. In the dark, I took a step closer to see the faces of
the impassioned sex partners. Sure enough, it was Letty, but I
was surprised to see her partner was little Johnny of all people. As Letty writhed in ecstasy, Johnny was
on top joyfully thrusting away. Johnny had a huge grin
on his face and was completely oblivious to my presence.
I could not imagine how Johnny had gotten in ahead of those four
eyes adjusted, I figured out why I had could not see
Letty's face. She was completely naked and covered head to toe in talcum powder.
The powder not only camouflaged her face and body in
the white bed sheets, it gave Letty an unreal ghostly white appearance.
For the life of me,
I could not figure out what the talcum
powder was for, but now Johnny was covered in it as
well. In fact, as my eyes adjusted, I could
see there was talcum powder all over the room... on
the floor, on the wall, on the other seven people.
seconds had passed since my discovery. I had
not acted yet because no one had arrived to tell me what to do.
Finally I made an administrative decision and pulled Johnny off of Letty.
Johnny screamed at me. "Goddamnit, Rick, I'm a
make me stop! Ah, shit, you just ruined everything!"
this kid wasn't quite as sane as I thought he was.
However, Johnny was the
least of my worries. While my back was turned dealing
with Johnny, another
man had just taken a flying leap on top of Letty. In less than a nanosecond this guy
on board and entered her. Letty didn't even
know the difference! She just kept moaning
away. Good grief, did this
woman ever bring her legs together? Now I had to pull
the next guy off of her too.
a minute, but the
reinforcements finally arrived. Someone had the sense to flip on
the lights and we soon had things back under
control. The head nurse said she would deal with
Johnny and the other men herself, but to get Letty
out of here STAT.
put Letty in the cooler and do it fast! I
can't restore order with her around."
This did not present a problem.
Letty was so zonked out from her medication and her orgy, she was
barely conscious. I decided it was easier just
to carry her caveman-style than make her walk
through the corridor. Since I was twice the
size of this woman, there was nothing to fear. So I
covered the woman in the white bed cover and threw her over my
shoulder. Letty offered no resistance.
She just laid on my right shoulder like a rag doll
while I carried her to the lockup room at the other
end of the building.
Letty's wing was
on the opposite side from the cooler, a room with nothing
but a mattress and a door that locked. I had a
considerable distance to go. The corridors were
deserted. All the other patients were asleep and the
entire staff was down in Letty's room. By the time I finished
the five-minute walk, I was covered in talcum
powder as well.
I still had no idea what the significance of
the powder was, but it added a strange element to the event. I was convinced this woman was insane
beyond insane. As I carried her, I wondered who had
arranged the gang bang. Letty? How? I had never
even heard her speak. Nor was she talking now.
How was it possible this same woman who displayed no mental
activity had suddenly come to life as a frenzied sexual
maenad in her room? And why had this frantic woman returned to being this
lifeless zombie draped over my shoulder?
abounded with mysteries.
talcum powder footprints in the hallway, I assumed at least one man,
maybe more, had preceded Johnny. It crossed my mind that
Illegitimate Baby Number 10 could
easily be on its way after tonight. I'm sure the State
of Texas would be just thrilled to discover this strange
turn of events. It crossed my mind that none of us
normal people had ever realized Letty needed to be isolated
at night. We had no conception what Letty was capable
of. Our civilized minds could not anticipate such a stunt was
even possible. As I carried Letty, I wondered if I would be
blamed for letting this happen. Probably not. I
had made the rounds promptly at 2 am and 4 am just like I
was supposed to. Since I had done my job, why should I
be in trouble?
reached the cooler. I carried Letty inside and tried
to gently put her
down on the mattress.
Out of nowhere,
Letty instantly sprang back to life!! I was scared out
of my wits when she clawed at me like a wildcat. Letty grabbed me by the
neck and attempted to pull me on top of her. I panicked and threw
her off, then bolted hard for the doorway in terror.
I was terrified
that Letty had chased me. The moment I slammed the
door shut, I looked back through the window in the door to
make sure her fingers had not been caught when I slammed the door.
I could not believe what I was seeing. Letty had remained behind on the mattress, but she was
rolling around and extremely animated. What in
the hell was she doing?
Before my eyes,
she ripped her cover off and started to writhe
on the mattress in wild sexual frenzy. Letty arched her back
and gyrated her hips as if some man was inside her.
This was insane! I thought I was witnessing a scene straight out of
the Exorcist. I had never
believed in demonic possession before, but now I was
starting to wonder.
to move her pelvis in an imitation sex act. Judging by
the expressions on her face, she was in some sort of
rapturous state. Either she had a heck of an
imagination or the Invisible Man was having his way with
Meanwhile I could not seem to tear my eyes away. The
woman's frantic movements were magnetic to my eyes,
felt guilty for watching this bizarre porn show, but I was
too incredulous to pull myself away. This was so
far beyond the edge of Ordinary I could not stop watching.
something terrible happened. Letty suddenly looked up
and saw the look of horror on my face in the window.
Or was it horror she saw? A huge smile came over her
face. Letty instantly
redirected her pelvis to give me a better view.
Frantically lifting her pelvis up as enticement, Letty screamed, "Come
here and fuck me, damn it! You know you want
This was the
first time I had ever heard Letty say a word! To my
dismay, her demand
cut like a knife through my defenses and went straight to
my loins. Watching her writhe and beg, I lost control and got
aggressively turned on
against my will. I was in some sort of Altered State
and felt helpless to prevent my arousal. This
sex-crazed woman had a power over me I never knew existed.
I suddenly had a wild
impulse to throw the door open and take her violently.
The temptation was unbearable. I felt tremendous urgency to
participate in her
wild sexual fury.
Knowing I was
losing my mind, I deliberately fell to my knees. My
only chance was to force myself to stop watching before it
was too late. Horny
out of my mind and scared at her power over me, I stumbled frantically to the nearest
restroom and hid inside a stall. My lust was so strong I was shaking. I
tried not to be ashamed of myself for losing control like
that, but it was terrible how strong my forbidden impulse
had been. That had been the strongest sexual
desire I had ever felt in my life. It was so powerful
in fact that I had just barely avoided doing something that
would have gotten me in serious trouble.
How was this
possible? How could I have been so out of control?
This was not the
first time I had experienced the power that a sexually
available woman had over me. At Little Mexico five years earlier, an
attractive Mexican girl named Linda had laid alone in her bed in the
room next to mine. Knowing for
certain that Linda left the door unlocked for a reason, it
had taken more will power than I knew I possessed to avoid
opening that door in the middle of the night.
Tonight the only
thing that had saved me from Letty was that same mysterious willpower.
However, I had come oh so close to doing something I would
have regretted for the rest of my life. If I had been
caught, it was not only a criminal offense, it would have
been very difficult to get someone to accept that I had felt
powerless to resist. Unless someone had been in
this situation themselves, no one would ever understand. For a moment there, Letty's
frenzy had made me feel helpless to resist her.
I was 23 years
old. I had spent my entire life learning it is a man's
job to control his sex drive. However, tonight I had
just learned that in certain circumstances a woman has the
power to annihilate every single defense a man has and
attack him on a level that he is powerless to defend. I had heard
rumors that women could turn men to swine. Now I knew
in the right circumstance
it was possible.
from this strange story for a moment, one would assume this
improbable event was unlikely to happen again. While
on the one hand I can confirm that this was the worst
situation by far, I would encounter an unusual number of 'Forbidden
Lust' situations over the next few years. I have
no way to compare the frequency of these Taboo situations to
other men, but I am forced to wonder if it was my Karma to
learn to conquer temptation in this lifetime.
All I know is
that as long as I lived, I would never forget the immense
power this crazy naked woman had exercised over me.
year between Hopkins and graduate school was great. I had a college degree,
I had a job, I had my own
apartment, I played pick-up basketball practically every night of
the week, and I was full of confidence.
after 22 years of failure, I even managed to get my very first honest to goodness
girlfriend. Wonders never cease.
Arlene was in training to be a nurse. One of her
rotations placed her at the mental hospital where I worked.
One look at the fear on Arlene's face at this unsettling new
location was all it took to see an opening. I used my
job to perfect advantage when I approached her.
'Hello, you must be new here. Did you just start
am a nursing student at Texas Women's University in the
Medical Center. I am here on a two-week rotation
as part of my training. What do you do here?"
The ice was
broken. After a nice talk, I
asked her out. To my delight,
Arlene said yes.
I was thrilled! This had been a spur of the moment
decision. Arlene was literally the first pretty girl I
had ever approached without
encouragement on the woman's part. Long ago I
had met a girl named Cheryl at a rock concert and managed to
strike up a conversation. However, sandwiched between
her passed out girlfriend and me, Cheryl had been something
of a captive audience. To meet Arlene, I had to
actually cross a room and think of something to say.
Well, good for me. It was about time I took a chance.
In my case, the
mental hospital with its depressing atmosphere was so foreign to Arlene,
I think she was
relieved to see a young man offering his friendship.
At some level, I believe Arlene appreciated my
unspoken offer to protect her.
I was 22 years
old and I finally had my first relationship with a girl that
lasted beyond a few weeks. Arlene was a good catch
- pretty, sexy, smart, hard-working, educated and decent.
Even better, Arlene liked me.
I am sorry to
say that I did not treat Arlene very well. Mostly I
ignored her. If given a choice between
playing basketball and
seeing Arlene, basketball came first. Arlene had me
pegged. She often
said I loved basketball more than her. I suppose Arlene had a
point there. However, in my defense, basketball had
been the only thing keeping me going for the past ten years.
The basketball court was my playground and my sanctuary
rolled into one.
On the other
hand, most people would agree that loving a human being was
ultimately more satisfying than worshipping a round ball. Yes, I knew
there was something wrong with me. If forced to guess,
all those years of being a
had made it difficult for me to open up. I was an only
child who did not make friends easily.
And why didn't I
make friends easily? Because I wasn't a very
nice person. I was a selfish, self-centered guy
who didn't think much about the feelings of other people.
I had two basic attitudes... 'It's all about me' and
against the world'. I lived
according to me-first and nobody else. My four years of isolation in
high school and my four years of isolation in college had served to prolong my selfish ways.
Arlene knew I
was a lost cause early on. One day Arlene came over
to my apartment. I was nursing a terrible cold, but hadn't
said anything to Arlene about it.
Arlene said, "You must
not be feeling well, Rick."
"No, I'm not
doing well at all. In fact,
I'm miserable. But how
did you know? Am I showing any symptoms?"
"Well, yes, actually
I knew the moment I walked in. I was surprised when you were sweet to me. The only time you are
ever nice to me is when you're sick."
One day Arlene
said she had decided to break up with me.
"All you ever do
is push me away, Rick. I can't get past your sarcasm and moodiness."
I didn't try to
talk her out of it. I was leaving for graduate school
in a couple of months, so it was going to happen one way or the other. To my surprise,
Arlene abruptly changed her mind a few minutes later.
In fact, she came over and gave me a hug. Then we made
love, a rather odd turn of events.
asked her why she changed her mind.
bear to give up on you knowing that someday you could turn
into a really wonderful person. You are such an
insensitive jerk most of the time, but I swear to God you have all the
potential to become a really decent guy."
Arlene was right.
I had my good side and my bad side. Deep down I was a
decent human being who loved animals and wanted to make the
world a better place. My good side wanted to become a
therapist and help people. My bad side pushed people
away. Arlene had tried her hardest
to penetrate that thick shell around me, but I wouldn't let her in.
I continually kept Arlene at arm's length.
What was wrong
with me? I had a good woman who adored me, but I
barely gave her the time of day. The thing is that I really
liked Arlene. I just wasn't in
love. I was happy when she was around, but I didn't think I
would miss her
when I left for graduate school. I told myself I wasn't
ready to settle down. In a way, I was right, but not for the
reasons I thought. I wasn't ready to settle down because I was
an emotional cripple... but I did not know that at the
time. I looked like a confident young man on the outside, but inside I had
the social maturity of a 16 year old. I didn't need to worry
about birth control; typically my personality worked just
I did not have
the slightest idea how to love a woman at this stage of the
game. I knew next to nothing about women. I had
never dated in high school. How could I? I was
poor and acne-scarred in a school where everyone else was
rich and beautiful. I was just as big a failure in
college. Like I said, I already knew there was
something wrong with me. I was cocky and arrogant one
day, moody and depressed the next. All I ever did was
think about myself. I didn't know the first thing
about thinking of other people's feelings.
I planned to use
Graduate School as my excuse to leave Arlene. Despite all my warts and
probably would have followed me to graduate school if I had snapped my fingers.
However Arlene had too much pride to bring the subject up. I respected
her for that, but I also used it against her. We
never once talked about the future because I made a conscious effort to avoid the subject at all costs.
I didn't have many
belongings, just some clothes, books and of course my
beloved basketball which I immediately placed in the seat
next to me for company. One morning I spent 15 minutes stuffing everything
I owned into my
car and took off for Colorado. I didn't even tell Arlene I
was leaving. I couldn't bear to face the tears. I would phone her when I got there.
I was pretty much a hard ass in those days.
Goodbye Houston. I am sure I broke
Arlene's heart in the process.
So what? I wanted
to be free. Graduate School was my
ticket to ride. From there, I would live happily ever after.
A Buddhist monk
was chased by a tiger. To his dismay, he reached the
edge of a cliff. Now he was trapped. Seeing a small shrub, the monk
grabbed it and suspended himself over the cliff. The
tiger caught up and snarled down at the helpless man below.
Slowly the shrub began to give way. At that moment, the monk noticed a
strawberry next to him. With his free hand, the monk
plucked the fruit and ate it. The strawberry was
so delicious that the monk smiled. And then he plunged
to his death.
The moral is to enjoy every moment
because you never know what waits around the corner.
PART FOUR: COLORADO
Cut my eye out
(01), Near Miss with the Stock Car (02)
Nine year career at St. John's
Divorce, Mom falls apart, Dad abandons me,
inferiority begin to develop, fascination
with Mrs. Ballantyne begins
runs away for over 2 days
Hurricane Carla, Dad refuses to send to SJS beyond
6th grade, Granted half-scholarship to SJS
Fred Incident - Illness at boy
scout camp leads to Invisibility, Katina Ballantyne joins my class
unconscious playing football due to blind eye,
Caught stealing candy at Weingarten's ,
Discovery of chess book (03),
Granted full scholarship to SJS, Summer basketball project
1964-1965: 9th Grade
Attack (04), Basketball strike on swollen face (05)
Father denies third skin operation, Locker Room fight, set
of weights appears (06)
Resurrection (07), I buy a car
Mr. Salls asks me to apply to
Johns Hopkins, Little Mexico, Father's $400 insult, Cheating in Chemistry,
Caught stealing gym clothes, Caught cheating in German (08), Jones
Scholarship lost to Katina,
Parking Lot Meeting with Mrs. Ballantyne (09), Ralph O'Connor hands me
a scholarship to Hopkins,
Close Call Car Accident
(10), Senior Prom Cheryl (11), Mr. Salls Blind Spot (12)
Freshman at Hopkins
Emily at the Train Station (13),
Sanctuary at Lynn's house, Car stolen in December, Night School Computer
Sophomore at Hopkins
Connie and Company Kill Shot, Dr.
Lieberman, Susan and the Witch at Quaker Meeting, Magical Mystery Tour,
eye injury (14), Sťance Night with Vicky and Terry (15)
Junior at Hopkins
Camp Counselor Daydream (16),
Colvig Silver Camp
Senior at Hopkins
Savitria, Koinonia, The Manor
Mental Hospital, Arlene