My late Father was, from circa 1960 to 1984, Senior Nuclear Research Engineer at the University of Illinois. I grew up doing my homework at the TRIGA Nuclear Laboratory. By age 9, I was discussing the difference between gamma and ionized radiation with people like, among others, Paul Hesslemann, Dan Hang, Bob Bohl, Marvin Wyman, and Dad {G. P. Beck}. I had an interest in science, but was more drawn to history {I was a Civil War Buff}, theology, poetry, and philosophy.
My favorite hard sciences were biology and meteorology. My parents could not understand that, and pushed me toward Math, Physics, & Chemistry. In 1966, my 7th grade science project. “The Effects of Irradiation on Plastics [with possible implications on the use of plastics for space travel]” won a blue ribbon at the State Science Fair. However, it was blocked from nationals for being too controversial; and I had an anger fit over my first contact with the Politically Correct Police.
My late pre-teen were troubling. It was during that time that I was subjected to the sexual advances of a pedophile. I shall refrain from details. Suffice to say that the person was a prominent member of the academic community who my parents trusted. I never breathed a word. But that experience, among other things, soured me a great deal on academia. It also led to a lot of self doubt and anxiety through my adolescence in the late 1960′s.
Like many growing up in that era, I vacillated on a career path. Also, I wanted to do it all, study everything. So, after High School, I experimented with drugs, become a Father too young, spent summers life guarding at a lake front beach, practiced a plethora of religions, went fishing a lot, and was a career student who bounced around between many majors. I had met the Soka Gakkai in the summer of 1969, and received my Nittatsu Mandala Gohonzon in 1972.
The Year of the Cat
Meanwhile, a life long vestibular disorder, coupled with a need to earn money, caused me to abandon any thought of an academic career. At that point I had about 60 academic credit hours in 5 years. That was 1976, the same year I decided to get serious about chanting the Daimoku. My life took a much different turn; one toward the mean streets outside of safe, cozy academic environs and summers at a beach. I had a lot to learn about humanity.
One night, the late summer or early autumn of 1976, I took three doses of climical acid and put on “`The Grateful Dead. I am not sure why — I had given up pot in 1971, and never did get into the ‘coke craze.’ Earlier that summer {or was it later? — time that year seemed all warped} I had ‘tripped’ while taking in a double feature at a drive in; “Fritz the Cat” and “The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat.” I was so vain, I thought that film was about me.
At any rate, while listening to the Dead on Windows, I decided I wanted beer. So I hopped in the beat up old car to go get some. On the way back, I saw a firetruck blocking the road. I stopped and got out of the car to investigate. A foreman walked over and said. “We have cat up a tree, out an a limb. It”ll be a while, you might want to take an alternate route.”
I went back to the car. Al Stewart was blaring on my tinny car radio. I looked up and my hair stood on end; the firetruck was not there. I went straight home, sat doen in front of the Gohonzon, and chanted my heart out.
Dark star crashes
pouring its light
into ashes
Reason tatters
the forces tear loose
from the axis
Searchlight casting
for faults in the
clouds of delusion
On a morning from a Bogart movie
In a country where they turn back time
You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre
Contemplating a crime
Lady in velvet
recedes
in the nights of goodbye
Shall we go,
you and I
While we can?
Through
the transitive nightfall
of diamonds
She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running
Like a watercolour in the rain
Don’t bother asking for explanations
She’ll just tell you that she came
In the year of the cat
She doesn’t give you time for questions
As she locks up your arm in hers
And you follow ’till your sense of which direction
Completely disappears
By the blue tiled walls near the market stalls
There’s a hidden door she leads you to
These days, she says, I feel my life
Just like a river running through
The year of the cat
I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee
Clouds in my coffee, and..
Youre so vain, you probably think this song is about you
Youre so vain, Ill bet you think this song is about you
Dont you? dont you?
Yeah, they were dancin’ and singin’ and movin’ to the groovin’
And just when it hit me somebody turned around and shouted
Play that funky music white boy
Play that funky music right
Play that funky music white boy
Lay down that boogie and play that funky music till you die…
Till you die…(Yeah) Wow, till you die