Monday, April 20, 2009

I doubt ergo I am still

What you reap you sow, and what you sow you eat. Sometimes the hardest thing about growing your own vegetables is having to swallow them. I don't much like leafy green things, or bulbous green things, or any green thing that isn't smothered in blue cheese dressing. So while I enjoy the idea of growing my own food in theory, I don't much like my own food in fact.

Still, I grow my own vegetables for a few reasons, some more justifiable than others. It seems like a nice tip of the hat to the planet. It does make me eat my greens. And there's a whole lot of smug self-satisfaction in talking about it.

And that last is important to admit and recognize, because there is a bunch of greener-than-thou sites out there, and many are developing a cultish following. A cult is never a fucking good idea, no matter how apparently benign the message.

I've watched one of our local sites grow into a minor international phenomenon. At first, the family told quaint tales of converting a house and yard into a tiny farm with an impressive yearly yield. Then they started showing pictures of themselves hand-wringing their laundry, reading by candlelight, and hosting "socials." Next they were gently asking for donations, "volunteers," and hawking a few green goods.

The message morphed, but gradually. It took a few years, and steady disingenuous posts on the website, but now they promote themselves as at the helm of a movement, demanding donations in the name of their "outreach" programs, which are all designed for you, understand, it's for you and your ecological salvation. Left to their own devices, they say, they would be happy to just stay at home and pick their greens and read Little Women by natural moonlight. But no, to save us all they must appear on major media outlets and events. And by the way, this website isn't free, the travel isn't free, and what money have you sent us lately? And buy something, buy something, because we're living greenthumb to mouth.

The web is a double-edged sword, and I found some of their history. And it looks to me as if the patriarch couldn't recruit people, gain a following, to a former, or splinter-group religion, so the family went in search of a new cause. Perhaps any cause would do. At least this one was edible.

Which leads me to Axxx.

Axxx was my best friend in high school, and surely the smartest girl or boy in any class. She could grasp anything and almost immediately -- calculus, history, law. I believe she got the highest SAT score in Illinois history. The only thing she couldn't do well was accept her parents' divorce. I don't know if it was the break up of a union she never questioned, or the fact her father left with her mother's best friend.

Axxx and I both graduated a year early and went off to the university. But within a year, Axxx broke apart. She got ill, so ill she couldn't walk, could barely breathe. I called her mother, and stayed with Axxx for a night or two until her mother came, and then didn't see her for years and years.

When we met up again, she made it very clear she had not joined a cult. The leader of the cult was Da Free John, aka Bubba Free John, aka Da Love-Ananda. Does it go without saying his reputation was infamous? Does it go without saying that sex was, allegedly, a main form of religious expression?

I'm sure, when Axxx first met this guy, he said something very reasonable and intelligent. Maybe even something rather brilliant, perhaps a single phrase he'd stolen from somewhere and practiced over and over. Something he knew young people, especially smart and broken young people, would want to hear. And on that solid foundation, he could gradually, gradually prop up some set dressing when she wasn't looking, and scrawl some two-bit philosophies across the paper-thin walls. Gradually, Axxx was eaten alive.

I sputter, as I try to come up with a word for this manipulator, and all such manipulators in the world.

My mom would read about a mass murderer, throw the paper down in disgust and lay down her invective: "That kook!"

So, ok, that kook.

Well, enough, and back to my planting. I have never been the smartest person in the room, but I've always had a healthy helping of green and leafy scepticism, which may not be the tastiest thing in life, but it has been good to me.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

Surprise! Last on the last post, first one on this one but it's siesta time! I'll Catch up another time.

Mid-Town G

WV avinc

West Coast Grrlie Blather said...

Great post, lil' Ms. Wet Blanket. Those manipulator types scare the bejeebus outta me---especially the men preying on women variety. It's also somewhat befuddling how "academic" intelligence does not necessarily equip one to deal with life's emotional traumas.

pasadenaadjacent.com said...

Leslie Van Houten of Manson fame is known to some of us as the homecoming princess of Monrovia High School. As my childhood best friend once said to me "I'm glad Manson was before your time because you would have run off and joined him....and I know she's right.
Now I understand more clearly your cynicism towards Zorthian

(no answer but it went well today)

Virginia said...

Well that was enough to make me put my Kool-AId down with a resounding THUD! You never cease to amaze me KB,

Laurie said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed this change in our little homesteaders in the city. I thought I was just being a paranoid, eye-rolling skeptic but I guess I'm in good company. When the preaching began, I stopped finding the entire thing quaint.

Then again, I find most movements insincere and filled with ulterior motives.

Great post.

WV: angstemi. I have a lot of that, too.

Mister Earl said...

Laurie: angstemi is fear of inflorescence.

WV = cursid

Susan C said...

Well, I learned three things from this post.
- That KB doesn't like to eat the veggies she grows
- That the homesteaders are crossing the line
- And that KB graduated from high school a year earl. (Actually, she may have mentioned that one before, the smarty pants.)

Tash said...

You always seemed like a sensible person to me - & this just confirms it - both RE cults & veggies. Poor Anne or Anja - very sad.

Vanda said...

You need more beets. Maybe create a cult around them.

Laurie said...

We really should start a self-righteous homesteading movement of growing inflourescence. We can tut-tut at those poor souls who have to look it up...

:-)

PJ said...

Kool Aid, Virg? Really?

I worship at the altar of the homegrown tomato. And also at the mix of the Jiffy Corn Muffin.

Someone I went to colletch with went on to fame as a social worker who was part of a witch hunt, accusing parents of crimes against their children. Now she and her hub, also involved in witch hunting, own a wine shop and live the good life. Some people can morph at will, or so it would appear.

Virginia said...

PJ,
Kool-Aid, Jim Jones, get it??? I don't really drink that stuff unless it's mixed with something stronger. (NOT cyanide)!

altadenahiker said...

I gotcha Virg. There was a marketing VP at The Times who brought a very unpopular plan to her staff, and also brought a pitcher of kool-aid.

PA, I'll bet that's one placque missing off Monrovia High's wall.

Laurie, it's kind of interesting watching the transformation and where it leads, no?

And among some of the other vegetables I don't like Vanda, I am planting beets.

Margaret said...

One: Ten bucks says you are always the smartest person in any room you enter. (You big, graduating-early liar.)

Two: A crazy kook is a sociopath/asshole/crazy asshole.

Three: Eat up your beets

altadenahiker said...

No way Susan & Margaret. I never went to class and was flunking out. It was out of desperation the parents let me try my hand at the SAT's and move out.

Axxx, on the other hand, was a straight A student.

PJ said...

I got it V, but it was just so out of character. I had to make sure. I figured you would at least be drinking Big Ass Kool Aid...since I'm missing out on the Big Ass Wine. I feel very sad :(

vw ousilly? Not me.

Hecate Visigoth (you slay me) said...

What a meaty post! It's got everything! Grit! True grit! Exclamation mark! Carne asada!

The story is very interesting. Where is she now? Some can break free and recover. I have never been capable of being a follower of anything or anyone for very long. Eventually, the one sided ness gets old and I move on.

Vanda said...

I think my aversion to crowds that keeps me safe from cults. And pickpockets.

Cafe Pasadena said...

I've heard variations of this message b4. What goes around, comes around, again & again.

These last 2 daze here in The Valley have been purrfectly suited 4 drinking ice cold live kool aid. Great weather watcher, KB.

altadenahiker said...

Me, an exclamation point? Nevah. That was my mom's.

You were jacokkovd

Petrea said...

I like beets.

I didn't like those people but it was because the kids looked miserable in the photos. I couldn't believe those teenagers were really into it, so I was pretty sure something was up. I was a teenager once, so I know all about it.

Not that I would ever do any empirical research, like KB.

Jean Spitzer said...

I keep on coming back and re-reading this. I don't really have anything to share, except that I googled and found the site you mention (of which I was previously unaware) and my jaw dropped because it was so much as you described.

Altadenablogmaster said...

K, I always love your insightful writing. (I'm a fan of your cheekbones, too, but I digress ...)

Took about 30 secs on Google to find this place whereof you speak, and it is frightening indeed. I always wonder why salvation is always supposed to come through handcrafts and subsistence farming.

Back when I was hanging out in neo-Pagan circles, there were a couple of places like this -- back-to-nature, subsistence farms run by folks who liked to lecture others and always had their hand out (as one of my friends said "I'm a pagan, buy me land!")

And when I lived in Boulder, Colorado, there were any number of cults lead by a charismatic leader who had special favor for attractive, wounded young women. I'm with Grrlie on these manipulators.

It's always dangerous when you believe your own BS, because other folks, wounded and less grounded, will believe it as well, and that way lies madness.

pasadenaadjacent.com said...

Did I mention Leslie was born in Altadena?
MH: thats not what you told me...

You'll like this....L.A.'s cult leader Father Yod got his comuppance when he took a nose dive while parasailing off the cliffs of Hawaii. He owned the restaurant The Source. Mr V ate there frequently while painting the Climax Club. V said Yoda took an instant dislike to him. I asked why and Vic thought it might be because he was taller then Yod
true story

V's a Braggart said...

The link should be working now.

MH answers PA with a toss of her curls said...

Okay, so I have been following someone for three years and the one sided ness does not seem to be discouraging me. But that's the psychosis speaking or the gin, one of those.

Gus at Mr. T's used to eat at The Source. I vegan back then and I preferred La Maganette or Scandia.

altadenahiker said...

Uh, can we get back to my cheekbones?

Anonymous said...

I'm eating what I'm reaping, and it's sow-so.

Cafe Observer said...

Last I heard, MH has been spotted following a K9 by the name of ...??? (well, I know it doesn't begin with an A or a B). Anyway, that's what MG is saying now.

PA, oh man, you had 2 mention The Source on Sunset! I was there in its last daze. How I'd luv to revive that type of restaurant here in Pasadena.

Laurie said...

They really are discussion-worthy cheekbones.

Anonymous said...

KB, This is a really great post. I hope you develop it further and get it published, especially the part about Axxx. I'm certain many can relate to this. I for one had a similar experience with my good friend, next door neighbor, and a young woman named Bxxxx.

Bxxxx was hot, and took here first shot, and got accepted to Berkeley, bypassing her senior year in HS. Berkeley was hot, till she took her next shot, and started flirting with Lucy. Lucy was playing with Diamonds in the Sky, which convinced her to commune with a Commune in Mexico. The Commune was in trouble within the first year, and running short of Pesos, the last thing we knew is that Bxxxx was dancing naked on tables in Mexico "raising money for the cause". Some tried to step in and help with Bxxxx's revival. But Bxxxx was not, she had taken her last shot, and Bxxxx was no longer Bxxxx.

The story is true, but some of the words and phrasing were altered but borrowed from obvious sources to give this comment a time frame.

Mid-Town G

WV bonwa (a Chinese bong?)

Anonymous said...

And, yes you have nice cheekbones, but I like them better while trespassing with Vanda and smiling.

Mid-Town G

Mister Earl said...

KB:

"Your cheekbones make a grown man cry, yeah

Your cheekbones make a grown man cry..."

CB3Dot said...

I was in Berkeley in the late 60's during the time when the first Peoples Park was created on land owned by the University. It was being held in some chancellor’s hip pocket for a parking lot, dorm or wha' ever. It morphed into a place where the street peeps, druggies, and early to come greenies planted people's gardens, fashioned tents and toilets and fought the battles fought between the greenies, police, residents, etc. When I last saw it, a few small gardens remained along with a few trees and many second generation druggies and greenies of the new order, some born in the park and more lost than their parents. I like greens, not beets, will tolerate carrots, and have a healthy disdain for cauliflower.

altadenahiker said...

Yes G, you've got it -- it's not that Bxxx in fact died, but the Bxxx you knew has gone and left the building. And AB is right, why do most of the cults have that element of subsistence farming? Gotta think about that.

It's a story that's haunted me for years, and has been cathartic to finally share it. Anyway, yes, I will try to develop this.

All except the cheekbones. That's SUPERCILIO.

(I have eaten at The Source. How could I have missed the climax club?)

Cafe Observer said...

4get de cheekbones, does KB have tasty dogbones? Two dogs have her at their house, so I assume so.

Petrea said...

I think these stories involve subsistence farming for a couple of reasons:
1. cults like living off the grid, away from the mainstream and the law, so they avoid towns and grocery stores.
2. minor cults don't have money so they have to grow their own food. (this wouldn't apply to the more popular cults that are really successful at begging)

altadenahiker said...

Partly, but I doubt most cults have the knowledge, skills, or discipline to be truly self-sustaining. There's some illusion woven in here, an illusion of innocence maybe. Or maybe an illusion of offering everything to the recruits -- love, family, food, shelter...

Petrea said...

I guess the illusion would be on the part of the recruits. I've never been in a cult, so I don't speak with any authority on this and can only guess. But my guess is that the leaders have few illusions about these things. Delusions, maybe?

WV: dialogis

Mr V is such a name dropper said...

The Climax Club was on Third and La Cienega (Third street was the earlier location of the Source). It was painted out after less then two years; around 1972. It's title was Sidartha in Beverly Hills. Afterwards the Squad loaded up the VW van and headed north in search of land to start a commune. No bank would give them a loan. An extension to their self sustaining garden behind V's studio on Brooks Ave in Venice (former garden now a parking lot) Former studio owned by V's friend Roy Walford. Roy spent six months living in the Biosphere in Arizona. His gardening practices caused them to nearly starve. Also the same fellow and founder of the eat less live longer movement.
True story

pasadenaadjacent.com said...

Roy died

WV:forgot