3 January 2016 Sunday
Larry Gordon, fellow pilgrim, passed away on New Year’s Day, at his home in Pacific Beach, California.
I worked for Larry many years ago, when he hired me to make and shape fins for his company, Gordon & Smith Surfboards, at the manufacturing “shed” in San Diego. Larry was an incredibly kind and polite man. I respected him very much.
He was probably always somewhat deeply influenced by the Christian outlook of his childhood family background, though when I knew him this influence was not a yet a closed system. In fact, I can’t remember him ever mentioning anything about it. Whereas, he found my own deep engagement in practicing and training to teach Transcendental Meditation very intriguing. He always commented on how remarkable he found the fact that I had met Maharishi & begun meditating at such an early point in life. He seemed to think it was almost unearthly that a young California guy would be a life-long vegetarian who did yoga every day, and had never missed a morning or evening session of twice-daily meditation practice. Larry attended one or two of my TM intro lectures and seemed to find the idea of TM strongly appealing, but I don’t think he ever went on to learn and practice the technique. Maybe, but I don’t think so.
I remember the first day I showed up to work at the G&S warehouse. Larry came out to greet me before I entered the doorway. “I know you’re a vegetarian yogi and are very interested in looking after your health, so I thought you might want to use one of these gas-masks. They’re state-of-the-art. I bought one for everyone here, but none of the other guys have ever wanted to wear them, for some reason….” Of course I put the mask on before I went in and never took it off whenever I was in the building or yard. But still, the potentially-lethal neuro-toxin stew of resin fumes, lung-destroying fiberglass particles and polyfoam-plastic dust (etc!) were deeply unhealthy, and I wasn’t able to hold on for long. But otherwise it was fun, challenging work — for a factory job. (Well, besides also being located next to the smokestacks of the large animal crematorium of the County Humane Society! — that was terrible.)
I was the only one working at G&S then who was not, nor ever had been, deeply immersed in the local surfer lifestyle scene, and several of the shapers and glassers and stripers were world famous surf veterans. Sadly, it was already easy to see some of the horrible, irreversible effects of all the neuro-chem damage, though some of that may have just been what we called “brain coral infection,” or “saltwater-logged-brain syndrome.” Or who knows what else? — Surfing in those days was not known for attracting intellectuals, and some of the star surfers-&-boardmakers were notorious for hard-partying with excessive drug and alcohol abuse. There were three or four very sharp fellas indeed working & creating there at G&S, and everyone there was extremely nice to me, but for the most part the collective brain-health state was a bit depressing….
Many of the hardcore guys & gals in the surf scene had begun practicing TM following introductory lectures that my fellow TM teachers/teacher-trainees & I were giving all over the area. Gradually, the daily practice of TM, yoga exercise, eating only fresh vegetarian organic produce, and the avoidance of intoxicants such as alcohol, tobacco, weed, and other drugs became a dominant core feature of the surfer subculture of Southern California.
But the earlier, crude, semi-thuggish nazi-ensignia-enthusiast lifestyle of drinking, doping, smoking, fighting, rebuilding old jalopies into souped-up hot-roads, street drag-racing, frequenting the brothels of Tijuana and Ensenada, eating cheap meat & other fast-food/junk-food, combined with years of getting repeatedly dinged in the head by heavy &/or pointy flying boards, “saltwater-logged-brain syndrome,” and the perpetually-increasing epidemic of raw sewage-sludge overspill saturating the ocean and beaches on both sides of the Tijuana-San Diego border, and the poly-glass-chem-rot from years of garage board-making, all took its toll.
For a while, stars of the surfer subculture, such as the Beach Boys (and many others less known or unknown to the general public) were not only practicing TM diligently every morning and evening, but in some cases were also attending months-long teacher training courses with Maharishi to become certified as TM teachers. Some were taking undergrad or graduate degrees in oceanography from UC and State campuses—one of the closest things at the time to a degree in environmental science. But somewhat concurrently, the upsurge of crude forms of fundamentalist Christian “street ministry,” led & spread in some notable cases by recently- & incompletely-reformed petty street thugs and drug-&-violence ex-cons, saw the unholy wedding of “hardcore Jesus freak style street-Christianity” with “surf-punk” subculture. Surfing had never been known for drawing a large number of intellectuals or persons of brilliant minds and refined spiritual or other humane sensibilities to its subculture ranks. The addition of a fundamentalist form of anti-thought religious fanaticism didn’t help.
Of course some surfers who took to TM, continued meditating and left behind all the negative aspects of what for many members of the subculture once had been central to their lifestyle. Others were attracted by the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda’s Self-Realization Fellowship, whose seaside hermitage/retreat center gave it’s name to the famous surfer beach known as Swami’s in Encinitas (in Sandy Ego’s North County Coastal area). And some of the surfpunk Jesus Freaks mellowed out after a while and went in various more tolerant, progressive and less-drug-&-booze-addled directions.
The surf scene has undergone numerous shifts and transformations since those days, while still retaining elements of each of the various lifestyle layers and flavours that had arisen & accrued by the period I’m referencing. Larry Gordon was always in a certain sense in the midst of the scene, yet also in a significant way somewhat outside it as well.
When I knew and worked for him, Larry was both a steadily responsible and quietly reflective guy who seemed to be earnestly open and curious about spiritual practice and experience and the natural development of higher states of consciousness, as well as an all-round decent chap. I don’t know just when he came to “believe that everything in the Bible is true” and that this meant that he “had the truth and the duty to offer the truth to everyone” he encountered. I don’t know that he ever became what I would call a fanatic, but when I knew him he also wasn’t even a fundamentalist, as far as I had any reason to suspect. As I say, during the time I knew him, he never mentioned his own religious views, if he had any; he only expressed a consistent interest in my own spiritual practice and experience.
Like I say, he was a nice guy.
Larry Gordon (1939-January 1, 2016)
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Things I learned today:
If your faucet is dripping at the rate of one drop per second, you can waste 2,700 gallons of water per year.
Check your toilets for leaks. Add food coloring to the tank. If the toilet is leaking, color will appear in the bowl within a short time. A leaky toilet can waste as much as 100 gal/day.
Cattle drink 8-12 gal/day and during hot weather up to 20-25 gal/day.
Horses drink 8-12 gal/day and during hot weather up to 8-12 gal/day.
Sheep drink 2-3 gal/day and during hot weather up to 3-4 gal/day.
It takes 2-5 gallons of water to brush your teeth, if you leave the water running.
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