Valedictory Address for Amherst College Class of 1966 45th Reunion (Version Delivered: May 28, 2011, 9:15 PM, Tent Behind Hamilton House)

by Richard Grossinger on May 29, 2011

Richard Grossinger

Valedictory Address for Amherst College Class of 1966 45th Reunion

Bear with me.  I’m going to tell a few campfire tales, and I don’t want to rush through them.

In my correspondence with Jon Huberth and Dave Browder, the entertainment group for this establishment, I called my offering a valedictory address, tongue I hope in cheek. When Jon wrote back, “Hey, who went and made you valedictorian?” I replied, “By the 45th you can appoint yourself valedictorian, and we can have as many as volunteer.”

I do want to do it. I want a challenge to speak from the heart. When Elliott Isenberg and I were discussing our upcoming 45th reunion, he said, with a trace of macabre glee, that attrition was setting upon us. Over the next ten years we will approach the mean life span for American males of our time, and we will be talking more and more about who’s no longer here. We are squarely in the yoga of mortality

That’s quite different from watching the march of the classes ahead of us. It’s the difference between hearing Jeffrey Hoffman talk about his stints in space and being shot into Earth orbit yourself.

Elliott’s subtext was that people are going to change in light of core vulnerability and mortality, so it is worth going to reunions to witness and support those changes in each other, to be part of a class body, to see in others what we can’t completely recognize or permit in ourselves. The situation, the asana, is inescapable; all we can do share its wonder, its terrible joy, the joy of each other’s company, in completing whatever this is, together; in giving up our ancient rivalry as men, to become, gradually at last, the same thing.

As we recognize that we are a class of both the living and the dead, we start to become a sangha in a much more serious way. But it was always serious; it was serious when we showed up in September of ’62.We just didn’t know it yet.

The universe hasn’t changed in its view of us or its plans for us, and the universe is a heavy “mutha.” We are now shifting into a deeper awareness, individual and collective, of the real ceremony, the actual reunion cycle.

Dusty Dowes called our attention to this matter, perhaps first among us, in 1991. He got it. As hilarious as he was sobering. I will give my version.

Toward the end of the banquet in Valentine, a mike was left open for toasts from the floor. After more than an hour of miscellaneous pronouncements, and maybe two minutes during which everyone assumed the speeches were over, a large, bearded leprechaun strode to the podium and broke the silence: “I was on the campus the other day and I saw this guy at his 70th reunion. Last living member of his class.” He paused. “I wondered, was he afraid?” He paused again, for what seemed an eternity; then he thrust his glass upward: “I propose a toast to the last living member of our class. Don’t be scared, buddy; we’re all with you.”

I can’t improve on that. That was our real valedictory address. I think it’s worth letting it sink in anew: from Dusty to all of us—from each of us to every other one: “Don’t be scared, buddy! We’re all with you.”

This is where it begins to get serious, but this is where it begins to get real.

My high-school alma mater opened with, “We were strangers met in friendship, / now we’re kin to one and all.” The Whiffenpoof song replaces its blithe geniality with the darker backwash of college days: “Gentleman songsters off on a spree, / doomed from here to eternity….” In the “parting glass,” the Amherst reunion-goer pleads that as long as he has one more cup to share with his classmates, as long as he can sing the verse of camaraderie one more time this night, time itself will halt. Good fellowship will never end. Then the truth finally sinks in: “We are poor little lambs who have lost their way. / Baaa, baaa, baaa!”

Our class exists as a ceremonial body because there is no alternative to it or replacement for it. We are not nearly as tight as a Hopi corn-mother fraternity initiated in a kiva, nor did we go through a ritual of transformation like a Zulu warrior guild, Australian Emu clan, or Tibetan monastic order, but, for most of us here, there is no more sacred clan or peer group of initiates into adult life. We shared no overnight vision quests or vigils in caves or among wild animals; we didn’t touch a weasel or bear with our index fingers; we did no group meditations on emptiness and the Great Void; we ingested no sacred poisons, but Amherst College Class of ’66 was what we had, so it served for each of us as our priesthood, our baptism into manhood, our initiatory ingestion of the serum of mortality.

The various rituals, gauntlets, and transmissions of ancestral knowledge that we underwent were experienced with a tacit recognition that we had become an affiliation and would remain so for the duration. Four years of parallel play, parallel study, and parallel maturation through the stormy phases of late adolescence into early adulthood somehow converged and transfused into a sacred and share ritual. As the drinking song says, “Now we’re bound by ties that cannot sever / all our whole lives through.” When we return to Amherst each five-year orbit, we come to honor the spirit of our initiation despite the negligence and grunge of our undergraduate training relative to a real sacred clan or warrior guild. We come to honor, acknowledge, and witness the holes in our knowledge as well as its time-honored truths, to celebrate our completed trainings and life practices.

When I use a word like “initiation,” I mean it in the most profound and specific sense. We were the unwashed youth of an elite America dispatched into the fire of our times, our own subincision rite and ritual blinding. It was an initiation because Amherst and our classmates were all we had with whom to get down-and-dirty and do the stuff that was necessary then. And it got done; a lot came out in the wash by graduation.

We went through the Cuban Missile Crisis together, which contained its own meditation on the Great Void and ego annihilation. We went through the Kennedy assassination, an esoteric watershed along the trans-America cruise. We experienced the prodrome of the Civil Rights movement, the birth of the counterculture and Aquarian watershed, the founding of the Liberation News Service by Marshall Bloom, his prophetically named Total Loss Farm just down the road of a decade in which we split for other parts.

Only those who were there understand the chilling innuendos of Senator Paul Douglas’ graduation speech when he told us that our next mission was to defeat the Communists in Asia the way his generation had fought the Nazis, consigning us to a wrong war in his own past, while an oracular future was exploding just in front of us, a future that is still cresting, as Marshall and Elliott led a white-armband protest and then a walkout during the awarding of an honorary degree to Robert McNamara.

Who could have foreseen McNamara’s later abrogation and atonement? Who could have foreseen the multiple waves of cultural transformation, changing everything: love, work, gender, hope, reality, mission itself? Who could have foreseen the visitations of the shadow, from Charles Manson to Jim Jones, from Waco to Oklahoma City to 9/11? Who could have even foreseen Marshall’s suicide a few years later at Total Loss Farm?

As different as these events and their scopes were, they were all contained in chrysalis at our graduation; we felt their inchoate tremors together. Even if one were only peripherally involved in they, we all passed through their vibrational field, their bow waves and quincunxes. Then we shared the transformational trigger and transmission of the Vietnam War, its radicalizing aftershocks, reverberating even now. Some classmates actually went to Southeast Asia in combat roles; others marched and organized against the war—no difference anymore. The meanings have merged and even changed places, leaving us only with an esoteric event.

We were thinking, almost certainly, that we were feeling something else then, and we were, too. Each of us had our own apprehensions and dreams for life, our own nostalgia for what was lost and left behind, always. That was just as true when cars pulled into the timeless time of the Quad, fall of ’62, the adventure just beginning.

We learned that we couldn’t order life to come to us or go charging after it, though we may have thought we were doing precisely that. We became not who we wanted to be but who we had to be. We arrived as children, novices, wise guys, assholes; we left as pretty much the same, a bit chastened and cooked, redirected from innocence onto the path from which there is no return.

It is that crucible to which we return every five years to mark the way. It doesn’t matter if our individual passages crossed each other’s or if we even knew each other here back then. We were a band of recruits. There is no other brotherhood, no competing membership, no substitute inner journey across America of our time.

We learned that we couldn’t order life to come to us or go charging after it, though we may have thought we were doing precisely that. We became not who we wanted to be but who we had to be. We arrived as children, novices, wise guys, assholes; we left as pretty much the same, a bit chastened and cooked, redirected from innocence onto the path from which there is no return.

It is that crucible to which we return every five years to mark the way. It doesn’t matter if our individual passages crossed each other’s or if we even knew each other back then. We were a band of recruits. There is no other brotherhood, no competing membership, no substitute inner journey across America of our time.

We are bathed now in nostalgia, perhaps even regret, but it is not because things were so much better or more promising then—we were nostalgic then too for something else. Nostalgia always reveals hidden forces present at any time, abeyances and possibilities that we can’t perceive at our passing phase of awareness and can neither excavate nor staunch. Those forces remain at work, and some deeper, inscrutable part of us and the world continues to tinge everything with a mythological and enchanted glow. That is the awareness and realization potential still in us, and it is big, as big as the universe itself. I will get back to that.

I will say now, there can be no regrets. We were whole and complete in ’62 and in ‘66. We are whole and complete now in 2011, a little more cooked, a little more cured, a little more sober, a little more street-smart. Each state of existence celebrates its own special, inviolable integrity—gaps, miscues, and all.

No regrets. We did what we could. Everything is still possible. Don’t be scared, buddy….

 

‘You can’t take it with you’ means consciousness and its goods, all this shiny and lit stuff, meaning anywhere, across these tundras and plateaus as well as the barrier where ye shall pass and walk that lonesome valley, ya gotta walk it by yourself. Not as a penalty or a debt that you owe the universe for having lived but because you are unique, and it is out of your uniqueness that you develop anything like the capacity for meaning or a Soul.

There is no other option. If you could, would you stay here forever? Would you be an immortal on Earth? That would be its own purgatory, or hell.

If we didn’t die, we wouldn’t find out who we are. We die to liberate the part of us that is real.

And don’t think for a moment that it isn’t terrifying, hideous, outrageous, unbearable, the universal draft without mercy or deferment. We are meant to be terrified. We are meant to undergo an incredible transformation. You know that. I know it. I think about it all the time. No way out. There never was. We have to change. We had to change as callow freshmen. But thank goodness the Cuban Crisis passed over, the bombs unignited, and left us a little more time to cook. Here we all are.

 

There are moments in life when a harbinger of its unwelcome oracle is imposed on us. About fifteen years ago my wife Lindy and I were advised by our lawyer to write a will because otherwise, he said, the State would make our posthumous decisions for us.

Lindy and I threw in together late sophomore year. After her graduation from Smith we drove out of Northampton in a yellow Mustang, went to Denver to get married, and then got our first apartment in Ann Arbor. Our class’s 45th reunion is our own 45th anniversary, shy a month. When we made an appointment with an estate lawyer, we assumed that we were making out our will. We had shared a household, raised kids who are now approaching middle age themselves, built a business together, and been through joint revelations and upheavals, losses and recoveries of our bond, discoveries of what it was that brought and held us together. The lawyer couldn’t have put it more bluntly; we were making out individual wills, including disposals of our bodies, because, she said, “It’s never happened yet in my practice that both members of a couple die at the same time. One dies first.”

The notion was disturbing and unthinkable, so I pushed it away, but I have been meditating on it subtly the last fifteen years. No different from October 1962, just more awake, more intense. That’s why I am here. Our group solidarity, our shared fates, our empathy and compassion for each other. Dusty’s “don’t be scared, buddy” mantra.

 

I can’t speak long enough now to encapsulate all of this, and I am already imposing on my allotment. But I do have some things I want to get said, not because I necessarily want to say them but because I want to put their resonance into our group vibration, class of ’66, living and dead.

Some of you know the overly-iconicized story of how I was locked in my room fall of freshman year, 407 James, the door knob rigged by James Higbie to come off in my hand; then lighter fluid was poured under the transom and people lit matches and sent flames across the floor. Nothing really caught, but there was smoke and some dorm-mates stuck their heads out of windows and yelled for me to jump. Enraged, I took my hockey stick and swung at them, smashing a few windows. Then Sid Schwab and Al Powers broke it up and rescued me.

I have many interpretations of this event, none of them bad or maudlin, none of them having me personally innocent and martyred. It too was a ceremony. We each did what we had to. Yeah, they were, by their own admissions, being douchebags. But I was a total jerk too, a unacknowledged provocateur goading them with my false piety and subversive righteousness. I got a lesson, a gift, in that I got awakened from a long daydream and whacked toward my identity. Something probably happened for each of them too—all such exchanges are reciprocal by karmic law. But this was my passage, my surprise party. The ceremony was conducted for my benefit, even in rage against me, which is finally the purest form of selfless teaching. Thanks, guys.

It is interesting how that event has played out at reunions since I started coming back at the 25th. Several participants have apologized. Higbie attended the 30th and turned out to be a surprisingly cool dude; that is, given the Unabomber/Goth personality he cultivated in James Hall. I wouldn’t have recognized him with his beard and sage stare. He walked right up, shaking his head, identified his ass, and said, “Sorry for that incident freshman year.” He went on to claim that it wasn’t his idea (or the idea of any of the other people who apologized); it was in Higbie’s words, “a blond Aryan Nazi dude on the floor named Carl”—a guy I haven’t seen at any reunion, so I don’t know, but it could go either way.

There is always an esoteric undercurrent, an archetype from which the opposite of an explicit event emanates. There is a way in which most of the important, the real stuff that any of us does is unconscious. We are on missions dear to the gods, and the only thing that stands in our way, really, is the most powerful, devious, and indomitable of our enemies: the self-saboteur.

Believe what you want—innumerable psychics report ghost carolers in post-9/11 New York. They see the spirits of the slain chanting dirges alongside their slayers on the now-sacred burial ground of the World Trade Center: suicide bombers and stock brokers and airline passengers, sharing ballads in a dialect beyond all languages, a dharma that precedes bodies and ideologies, because they have no other choice and nothing else to do—not now, not any longer, not even then. It is why 9/11 was a birth rite as well as an act of infamy and dance of terror, a jihadist awakening as well as a jihadist cataclysm, a muezzin as well as a cry of war.

 

In my writing about our Amherst years I recall so many poignancies, sorrows, and epiphanies. We all experienced the hints of a spring breeze or early snowfall in a way that would become completely obscure to those who followed us, because all of the above arose out of the rich, mysterious, romantic, guileless density of the fifties, and then explicated and resolved it into something else.

Everything was so intense and cogent then: the calls of the birds, the colored leaves covering the Quad, mixers at Smith and Holyoke, the smell of mown fields, seeds in the air, malted frappes, pumpkin stands, hot showers, a snowball tossed perfectly through the crack of Bob Lewin’s fourth-floor Morrow window, a shot in a thousand.

One reverie from the time serves for me because it holds its epitome. It was on a day sophomore year that two upperclassmen, Jim Koscis and Larry Lundwall, drove me and Schuyler Pardee, who was my best friend then, and our dates to a pond north of here, and we all went swimming, the clouds above blown apart in the jetstream. I felt the pure mystery of existence then. It remains such today, though something has been realized and revealed by my lived life.

Two years later Schuyler was completing his BA, residing in Belchertown, married to a different Smith student, an alumna. He was a wonderful guy: sassy, brilliant, funny, with a great wife. Lindy and I had broken up temporarily at that time, so I envied him everything he was and had and had been able to pull off. He was my hero.

When I visited the couple in their cottage by the lake, the song of everything and nothing resonated then: “Try to remember the kind of September….” Yes, “when grass was green and grain was mellow.” Talk about a heart-rending profundity whose source is everywhere and nowhere.

Give me a moment, and we can all go there.

Fast forward two more years. Lindy and I were living in Ann Arbor, newly married, when we found out that Schuy, having split up with his wife before graduation, rode his motorcycle off a road in southern Illinois with his then-girlfriend, probably a suicide. She survived, to bear his last testimony.

Soon after our 25th reunion I was east, taking our daughter to look at colleges and I followed a tip that Schuy’s ex-wife had subsequently married Kim Townsend in the English department and then gotten divorced from him and was living in the area. I looked her up, and we had dinner. She told me an amazing story. Twenty-three years after my friend’s, her husband’s death, and twenty-five years after their divorce, someone gave her a gift certificate to a psychic for her birthday. “I don’t believe in that sort of stuff,” she said, “but I didn’t want to insult her, so I went. The moment I sat down, the lady told me, ‘I have a message for you from your husband.’ I assumed she meant Kim, but she said, ‘No, your other husband, the one who rode the motorcycle. He wants you to know: he’s happier without a body.”

I have studied the occult my whole life, as a writer, an anthropologist, a spiritual seeker. I have met many mediums, remote viewers, and astral travelers. I am not bowled over by this sort of stuff and have a normal degree of skepticism. Yet this message from “Schuy” meant something important I couldn’t quite grasp. Through the rest of the ‘90s, across Y2K, I kept returning to it my mind.

I was telling the story to a hiking buddy in 2004 when chills went down my spine because I knew I finally had it, the missing piece. I had always figured I would die young or, if not, that everyone I loved would be taken away, making life intolerable—but, no, neither had happened; I had stayed and aged.

Schuy once had youth and spirit and limitlessness, but he elected to wager these on a throw of the dice against death, refusing to postpone the existential encounter, a heedless gamble that something unendurable in him must have required. Did his false valor come from cosmic grief or a more profound ennui? How did desire, artless adolescent desire, lead him to the executioner?

“Goddamnit,” I found myself shouting, “he had such a beautiful body. He had style. He was charismatic, a great athlete, bright, irresistible. But he didn’t want it. He didn’t want his body. But I must have wanted mine. Because here it is, thirty-five years later, and I still have it.”

Lindy and I were almost sixty, our children adults. It was Schuyler who remained fixed and invincible at twenty-three, having left his wife behind in a cabin in Belchertown.

 

We all obviously wanted these bodies, desperately in fact. So I’d like to propose a collective exercise, a journey. Of course it’s optional. Feel free to join or drop out at your discretion.

Let’s be here together in a silence, a profound and holy silence that is louder than any sound or thought, beyond the low grinding sound of the human mind that scares most spirits away. Reflect on that for a moment without any of the usual trappings or categories of belief. I don’t mean the sort of Zen exercise where you free your mind of the past and all worries, distractions, desires. Hold onto any or all of those, including impatience with my talk and the wish to get onto the next thing tonight. Take a chance. Deepen with everything here. With everyone. Everyone. Those who have passed as well.

I think of existence as having the steady-state buzz of metabolism, mixed with wandering attachments of consciousness, background claims of the body, things we chronically want, our urgencies, and also, at the edges, a lingering terror because our existential situation is impossible—and euphoria because likewise our situation is impossible.

It is terrifying because the universe is so vast, our place threatened, our time in this state so succinct. But it is our party and epiphany too because nothing really had to happen at all, ever, and certainly not us. What I am asking is that you explore the terror and astonishment, to whatever degree you feel it, but at the same time, explore the sheer joy and beauty, the wonder of this, in each other’s immaculate presences. Allow this amazing situation to sink in. We will die, but we are alive at this moment. We are individual, unique, aware, on a planet, in a circumstance we didn’t create, at least not consciously, that has no context to explain it, or us. I am not asking you for anything more than to feel it as exquisitely and dangerously as you can, and I am emphasizing not the fear but the exhilaration. To loosely quote an old guy making a backseat “Taxicab Confession” on the TV show: “We are in existence. Which is a fucking big deal. We made it. We got in.”

I am suggesting that we share a moment of wonder and gratefulness and awe and recall that we are strangers met in a ceremony that transcends us, that we are bound by ties that cannot sever; we made it, we got in, and we’re still here.

Then I am asking you to consciously invite and include those class members who have passed, from the beginning of our band, the early sixties, and allow them to be here too. Don’t sabotage it. Don’t sabotage yourself. It is not impossible. It is our choice and their choice too. Because if existence is possible, a class of the living and the dead is possible too. Have this crazy belief in us. Believe it not with your mind but with your heart, your whole being. That is where it happens, whether you understand it or not. That is where sabotage occurs too, always. At reunion, by definition we are one.

Go to the magnificence of your own being, into that deep place where no contrivance can help you, where a novice gets bitten or killed, or comes away with the whisker of a jaguar and the jaguar’s loyalty and keeping forever. In this life and after this life. Only it is not a jaguar. We all know this, at our core, beyond what we tell ourselves we believe or don’t believe.

Then one last piece to this exercise. I want to ask you to drop any objection, just for a moment. Humor me. Forget who I am. Forget who you are. Do this: find the larger unacknowledged space around you, around us, the part of the universe that is untenanted, undesignated, but that holds your future, your real limitless future, holds eternity in it. Allow our collective presence to open that space and bring you into it, as though you are bumping this whole thing, this manifestation, this emanation, this goofy, somber state of being, up a few frequencies. Change your own vibration, and then join us in changing the collective vibration. Here we are, Class of ’66, at the Jeff.

 

 

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News Notes and Queries
July 3, 2011 at 6:28 pm
News Notes and Queries
July 4, 2011 at 1:05 pm
News Notes
October 7, 2012 at 5:01 am
News Notes Updated October 23, 2012
October 23, 2012 at 8:09 am
Notes Updated October 23, 2012
October 23, 2012 at 8:18 am
Amherst Class of ’66 Fiftieth Reunion Notes
June 5, 2016 at 10:23 am

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Ed December 2, 2016 at 2:43 pm

Enjoyed your writing about Grossinger’s Hotel. I worked there in the mid seventies as a night auditor. It was a great experience living and working there. I especially recall with gratitude how well employees were treated. I felt like a guest. I lived on the top floor of Milton Berle Building. Employee dining room had great food and even waiters. I went on from there to manage and now own my own hotel. Your family business taught me how to treat employees. It was a great lesson that I went on to learn is rarely copied. I would love to visit Grossinger’s one day. Great memories indeed.

Polly Hough November 22, 2016 at 4:34 pm

Thanks to Richard and responders for an interesting dialogue, some of which seems helpful, but too much seeking to blame Hillary for losing, when she fought as hard as she could to continue what she could of Obama’s Legacy, which has benefited many, though not enough. Thanks also to Congress! I do wonder about her handlers and advisors’ thinking. Trump’s smoke screen of scandalous comments has obscured our view, and perhaps obscured the complexity of the problems. Hillary has apologized for her errors, and had the right to her point of view. I do wish that she had embraced more heartily Sanders’ populist approach and even chosen him to be her Vice Presidential contender, but I think they still might have lost. She had a workable platform, he had charisma and slogans. With work, they could have unified their vision. But neither addressed the “rigging” that I see Republicans do every day here in Utah. Is it so common that we don’t see it?
I suspect the truth of why the Democrats lost lies in the systematic cheating that the Republicans set up long ago, which was not sufficiently revealed and decried. It is time to read Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman’s,” The Flip & Strip Death of American Democracy…”, (www.freepress.org/www.solartopia.org). and look into the rigging in each state, particularly those key ones that lost her the election. She didn’t lose by that much if you face up to the weak democratic institutions we have going, and the way it allows the Electoral College system to malfunction without corrective. Let’s quit grieving and get to work fixing the damn thing. Too much is at stake. Trump’s finger should not be on the Nuclear button.

Linda November 18, 2016 at 3:15 pm

I just finished Ron Sieh’s book and would love to take lessons from him. Can you tell me where is and if he’s teaching?

Peter Beren September 11, 2016 at 1:55 pm

I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks for sharing. Peter

Vegeko December 2, 2015 at 12:05 pm

You can find pictures of here. Should I aemttpt to preface the city of a hundred spires, its lovely architecture cannot be forgotten. Search in your memory for a name of any style you can think of. Prague will almost certainly have some landmark to offer – be it from hundreds of years ago such as Romanesque rotunda or from numerous eras spanning centuries. The latter can be represented by the picturesque Prague Castle with its truly magnificent St Vitus’s Cathedral or the tiny (and that is probably one of the reasons why) fairy-tale like Golden Lane. The same applies to architectonic landmarks “remembering” merely several decades such as the precious Cubist pearls scattered here and there in Prague’s winding streets, buildings, , theaters, museums.

Richard Grossinger August 16, 2015 at 3:50 pm

Thanks for the comment. It was meant to serve a healing function itself, as there is not really a general cure for optical migraines. But no, I don’t have a lot of specific or topic-oriented feedback. Most of it is on the same level of yours: general usefulness of the book. As probably goes without saying (from my quotes and bibliography), I consider Oliver Sacks’ book Migraine very useful, but the best one is a book that our press published for which Sacks wrote the preface: Migraine Art. It is more than a picture book; it goes into great detail on the categories of auras and their effects. Richard

Jackie Perkins August 16, 2015 at 12:15 pm

Hi Richard,
I read your book about migraine auras several years ago and have reread it several
times. Thank you so much for writing it as it helps me when I have a bout of
auras with very little headache. I was wondering if you have had a lot feedback
from fellow sufferers and if you have learned anything more about them since
the book was written. Can you refer me to any other sources to help me make
peace or get rid to them completely.
Any comments will be appreciated,\.
Jackie

Jacqueline phillips December 29, 2014 at 8:47 pm

Thanks for sharing. Raised in the village of Liberty. Worked the switchboard at the G as a teenager. Went to school with Sandy. Sad it did not continue.

david hovey August 27, 2014 at 9:40 am

my mother and aunt were bauer sisters..founder of lpga golf association..i spent many summers up there..great..miss it

Richard Grossinger May 22, 2014 at 9:03 pm

Dear Jim, Thanks for writing. You were really there at the core of my time, a rare thing. I don’t specifically remember you, though. Let me know if you want the two books, New Moon and/or Out of Babylon, as I can send them for just the cost of the postage. Richard

jim blankenship May 22, 2014 at 8:46 pm

I enjoyed reading about your family and experience at Grossingers. I worked there, along with Teddy Howard, as the house photographer from 1958-1961. It was quite an experience meeting and photographing many of the celebrities and sports figures. I had been on the staff at NY Daily news in the city prior to this so I enjoyed the life in Liberty and Sullivan Co. My wife and I live in Atlanta now. We were married in Liberty in 1960……. Jim Blankenship AP Photographer,retired

Richard Grossinger January 6, 2014 at 11:10 am

Thanks, Kris. I have send the review around to our staff, and there is even some tentative thought about including it as a foreword to one of the two 50th-anniversary Io anthologies that we are releasing next year (2015). If we were to pursue that, would you like to rewrite it or perhaps punctuate it more conventionally (close open parentheses, etc.)?
I’d be curious to know your actual critique of my political statements. You don’t actually say, taking it for granted that it is obvious, though part of your point is that it isn’t obvious to me, and it isn’t. I can guess, but I could easily be wrong. For instance, it isn’t actually clear that you are not the Australian (or other) offended equivalent of a Conservative Republican.
Although I do pose those arguments seriously, they are also at the level of myth, and I speak to that occasionally. I have no special insight into political matters, but I do throw myself into the mythology for what it expresses. I think that one can be literally “wrong” and still mythologically accurate. For instance, in the case of Obama, he is not literally who I have portrayed him as, but the myth is still authentic. In that regard, you might note my Facebook post on him recently, also on this website.
Also ironically enough in this regard, enough people are ONLY reading the political parts of my writing, enough so that Andrew Harvey has urged me to collect them in their own book as part of his Spiritual Activism imprint. This doesn’t make me any less off-base any more than that that refutation is obvious.
No complain here. I’m just interested to know what you are actually saying. I have spent most of my life in America, whether in compliance or reaction.
The whole “Ken Wilber” thing is an interesting story of its own, far too labyrinthine to tell. The very short version of it is that a writer friend in Maine with whom I occasionally hiked and whose work I supported and helped get published suddenly went ballistic against me and not only made those comments about me and Wilber, which I paraphrased, but wrote such, strong threatening emails that friends I showed them to urged me to take them to the police. They were what mafia might write.
The thing that set him off was that after a hike I naively wrote a piece (like many of the other pieces in 2013 and Bardo of Waking Life) about the events on the hike and our dialogue and then sent it to him (from NYC en route back to California) with the idea that he and I might collaborate on a piece about our experiences that day. Making him a character in my piece, even though it was informal and unpublished and I was offering him an edit and a collaboration, had the effect of triggering a response so extreme that I didn’t actually believe he was serious at first. I apologized profusely, trashed the piece, and yet the emails kept coming, up to the “mafia” level. What made this all the more inexplicable was the fact that prior to my transgression in writing the piece, he had been a good friend, and I had been pretty much his main supporter in the larger world, finding him a venue in which to publish.
Now that’s the shell of the story, and the piece you comment on came out of that, is my displaced response to it. I didn’t want to repeat the original error by being any more specific and singling him out in any way. The underlying issues are probably of a whole different order.
Since then, we have mellowed out, though are no longer friends and don’t hike together anymore. Meanwhile I have had a lot of indirect contact with Wilber in the sense that two of his main students who live in the Bay Area have read Dark Pool of Light and consider it relevant to the Wilber tradition and thus have spent time with me, talking. So right after I declared myself completely separate from all that, I got brought back into it in more benign and pleasant terms.
I hope that you take a look at Dark Pool, as what I began in 2013 is brought to its culmination in there. Really what my work is about, and what I make my stand on, is not the political ideology or even the literary voice so much, but the cosmic vision, and then putting it into viable literary form. I will post this on Facebook too. Richard

Kris Hemensley January 6, 2014 at 12:47 am

I’m amazed & humbled at yr reprinting of my review… Thank you. Looking forward to reading you anew in 2014! Cheers, Kris Hemensley

Richard Grossinger September 16, 2013 at 4:21 am

They have not been updated, but I have started work on a fourth volume posted on this website. Also the fourth volume is really now the “fifth”
volume because I have rewritten The Night Sky as a de facto fourth volume. It will be out next spring. See the home page of this site for a table of contents. Also I will continue to post interviews with me about the books, audio, video, and text. Thanks for reading them and for inquiring.

Jim Weddington September 16, 2013 at 3:31 am

I have all three volumes of “Dark Pools of Light” in nook book format. I recently heard that this trilogy has been up dated. If so I would like to recieve the update in the nook format. If this is possible.

I have been having some problems with emails. So if you can’t reach
me by email try.

Jim Weddington
105 LaGrange St.
Newnan, GA 30263

Thanks,

Jim Weddington

105 LaGrange St.

Richard Grossinger July 20, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Dolores, thanks for the touching thoughts. Time does move remarkably fast, especially because it never stops, even for an instant. But it may not be linear, so those times are still alive somewhere in the universe, as you will be.

Dolores Levine Seiler July 20, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Dear Richard, I enjoyed reading your piece. For me it was nostalgia and sadness, not only for Grossinger’s but for my life which is also nearing its end. My father was Lazarus Levine, and my husband, Seymour Seiler, married me at the hotel in 1953. He was an architect and worked with Harry. My son, now 56, had his Bar Mitzvah celebration at Grossinger’s. My daughter learned how to ice skate and ski at the hotel. I am sorry that my grandchildren could not particpate in the “Jewish” celebrations that were so wonderful there.

Richard Grossinger May 21, 2013 at 9:23 pm

Well said. Thanks for the comments.

Carol Malloch May 21, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Hello Richard,
I enjoyed reading your article. I moved to the town. of Liberty NY. in the early 70’s .
I grew up on the West coast up to that point. Liberty was culture shock . For your family to build a world class resort was a testament to their abilities . Your aunt Elaine. was a respected member of the community . She was head of the school board
in Liberty . She handled out the diplomas at the high school graduations every year.
When your grandmother died, the town lined the main st of town for her procession.
Grossinger’s was the castle on the hill and the jewel of the catskill resort.industry . Your cousins Michell and Mark went on in the hotel industry to make their mark . The problem was the weak economy and decline of the whole hotel industry that ruined Grossinger’s . Your father and Aunt Elaine did what they could do to keep people employed . Despite how your parents turned out, they are still your family and you are apart of them . Grossinger’s will be always known for it’s great hospitality . It’s just a shame how she ended up. The Catskill Mountains just reached up and took back what was their’s .

Richard Grossinger May 17, 2013 at 8:56 pm

I have no knowledge at all. The property was sold almost 30 years ago and has been re-sold many times since then.

Monique DeCicco-Jones May 17, 2013 at 8:19 pm

I am a Family Nurse Practitioner with a few ideas on the restoration of this facility via Health Care grants. Who actually owns this property and what is their contact information? My phone number is (845)292-9114. I am a resident of Liberty and often don’t read my email because I am extremely busy pursuing a PhD in nursing so please feel free to phone.

Monique DeCicco-Jones May 17, 2013 at 8:18 pm

I am a Family Nurse Practitioner with a few ideas on the restoration of this facility via Health Care grants. Who actually owns this property and what is their contact information? My phone number is (845)292-9114. I am a resident of Liberty and often don’t read my email because I am extremely busy pursuing a PhD in nursing so please feel free to phone. I pass the facility everyday and have great visions for it!

Richard Grossinger May 10, 2013 at 8:52 pm

I am moved by your bringing back the past, and it rings true about my grandmother whom, I always felt, had a dignity and grandeur beyond her public image, and also a kindness and generosity, though she also had her own hauteur and corruptness. The generation that followed just didn’t get it, not that it would have changed anything in the end. I’m not sure that “Peter” isn’t a wrong memory. It’s more likely Michael or James, my adopted half-brothers. Also possibly Jerry or Freddie. No “Peter Grossinger” in that era.

Ron Erich May 10, 2013 at 7:35 pm

So glad and sad to come upon your story. I , and my sister, worked at Grossinger’s for two summers as a waiters, earning money for college. I think it was 1965, 1966. Jennie G. offered us the jobs when she was in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and my father was her Physical Therapist. I remember the two great fun summers there. I did hang out a little with Peter Grossinger one summer and it was always a thrill went Jennie would come into the dining room and give me a hug. It made me feel important and kept the maitre d’s off my back for a few hours, at least.
So sad to see the pictures of the property in its state of abandonment. I saw that the Concord is gone also. Here in southern California one seldom sees beautiful properties going back to nature.
Thanks for your story and bringing back memories that I had almost forgotten.

Shirley March 31, 2013 at 7:23 pm

My father worked as a waiter there during the 70s. Sometimes he would take us there and I would remember swimming, skiing, or just roaming around the hotel with my sister and friend. We loved going there and my father still talks about his wonderful years there. When the hotel was closing down my father salvaged a few things, including a painted porcelain plate I believe that was hung in the dining room. I want to return these items to the family. Let me know if you would like for me to send you a photo.

Richard Grossinger February 19, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Last I knew, he was teaching at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco in the Somatics Program.

William McKeen February 19, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Quantum

The double slit experiment prove that with observation you can improve the probability of making a certain thing happen. The negative aspect of this is if focus on the particle you lose sight of the momentum. Focus on the momentum, you lose sight of the particle. Another example, focus on the tree you lose sight of the forest. Focus on the forest you lose sight of the tree. Even better one, focus on God you lose sight of reality. Focus on reality you lose sight of God.

The extreme differential of the last example can be explored in the writings of both Schopenhauer and Swedenborg.

MN February 16, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Hello Richard, I used to know Ian Grand a long time ago in Berkeley. Wondering if you have any idea what’s become of him. Thanks!

Richard Grossinger November 11, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Great WorK!

Richard Grossinger October 4, 2012 at 9:14 am

Thanks for the nice note. I think that the warts ARE history, always. Nothing exists as an idea(l) or in a vacuum or as its mere prototype.

Wes Gray October 4, 2012 at 8:54 am

Dear Richard,

You are an extremely talented writer. A wonderful story indeed. As the internet goes, you end up stumbling upon things you never knew. I learned a great deal about a piece of American history, warts and all. Your grandmother’s legacy is secure for eternity.

ann September 16, 2012 at 10:33 pm

Regarding, Dark Pool of Light, Volume Two: Consciousness in Psychospiritual and Psychic … By Richard Grossinger, I would like a preview copy. I grew up with Kimmie Ross and we just today discussed Ontology, and her future with that concept. So it was quite a surprise to read your bit on her. Though a sceptic, your writing style keeps me reading….and your education…my grandfather went to Amherst and my mother went to Smith then Univ. of Michigan to join my father (a fourth generation U. of Mich grad). You seem to have fun with your life and family so that is why I am requesting the preview, which you offered.
Thanks, Ann

Barbara Sparhawk September 3, 2012 at 8:39 am

Hello Mr Grossinger. Found you googling Goddard and there were so many cross references historically between us I feel compelled to halloo.
Goddard student in ’62, classmates Charlie Ponce, Eric Saarinen, Peter Pilafian…acted in Charlie’s moody plays, there were many and he was stark drama, the only one I remember the title of is The Cistern, me posed reciting in spotlight over faux hole center stage. I attended Riverside’s Encampment for Citizenship summer prior to Goddard, Ethical Culture Society but as a child, and took Tai Chi in the ’60’s with Professor Cheng M’an Ching on West Broadway. Lived in Chinatown, Brooklyn, bits of the states and world; only female billboard painter; still write and still paint; gallery in Big Sur 3 years, now Carmel Valley.
Interesting to find you and read your history. Goddard produced activists, something that never entirely left the molecules electrified there.

Paul D. Mendelsohn August 24, 2012 at 6:44 am

Hi Richard:

I loved your piece. We must have run in parallel universes. My dad had the jewelery concession at G’s in the 50’s and early 60’s, so I spent a lot of weekends up there as a kid and have great memories. My dad was a good friend of PG’s, Jenny and Elaine and he mentioned the other day that he still runs into Elaine down in Boca. The ruins remind me of looking at the wreck of the titanic, which I also had a fascination with as a child. At G’s I had so many great memories of wandering through the lobbies, watching Jenny on “this is your life” in the lobby in 1954 (I was only 7), the ice sculptures, Lew and Simon Sez, skating with Irving, watching them break gound for the “new” indoor pool, the malts in the coffee shop, the great toboggan rides, but mostly I enjoyed watching the people. It was a great time to bond with my dad in a Camelot environment. In the late 60’s I also worked with my brother Hank in the dining room, but G’s was changing and was already not the same. I also got hazed at the one year I spent at Camp Chipinaw. But I did enjoy the horseback riding, fencing and lake area. Athough I did not like having to carry out “rocks” every time we left the lake to clean out the swimming area. I currently live in Charlotte, Vermont and would love to hear from you.

Richard Grossinger August 20, 2012 at 5:25 am

Thanks, Greg. So great to hear from you. You were my room-mate in Phi Psi at the beginning of sophomore year, a crossroads time. And you were my first stop on my flight west in 1965, the seminal summer of my life. That’s no doubt when I “performed” my orange-juice disaster. I can be very dyslexic with half a chance, and certainly back then. I am still grateful you provided that “safe house” when it counted. I’d love to hear more about your journeys. Is there a way to contact you?

John Prentiss (Greg) August 5, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Hi Rich. While googling “Sam Lipskin,” I stumbled on your “Best Friends” list and am glad I did. In addition to news of Sam, you shared info about other classmates like Jeff Tripp and Greg Dropkin I’d lost track of decades ago.

You remain one of the most talented, delightfully eccentric people it has been my pleasure to meet. (I still remember my father looking on in disbelief as you tried to mash a 2 1/2 inch wide can of frozen orange juice into a jar with a 2 inch top and his saying to me later, “So how come you’re telling me he’s genius? He can’t even make orange juice.”)
Take care.
Warmly,
Greg Prentiss, former screenwriter, bum, and Chief Deputy Prosecutor for Adams County, Washington, now living in the Ozarks with 6 cats

admin April 26, 2012 at 10:39 pm

Thanks, Harlan, I appreciate the comments. Probably the only thing further I’ll do on this is rewrite Out of Babylon for an ebook to come out in 2014.

Harlan Friedman April 22, 2012 at 6:34 pm

I loved this story. My father worked at the G during the 70’s until the parental units decided it was time to take the pilgrimage to Long island and set up shop there. I remember many fun days there. My first “print ad” was a shot they used of me on the playground for a brochure in the late 70’s. Please keep the stories and pictures coming!

admin March 12, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Thanks, Michael. Are you still around Bar Harbor? Lindy and I plan to be there around July 1 through at least the end of September this year.

michael flahetty March 5, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Hey Richard! We first met on Mt. Desert Island when we swapped a pizza for Somme of your books(great trade).Hope you and your family are well.Saw your son on t.v. and felt a strange sense of pride considering how little I know you or your family.Hope to see you in Maine!

admin February 25, 2012 at 9:21 pm

I really don’t remember or, more to the point, don’t think I ever knew. The number “$26,000 a day” sticks in my mind from some discussion in the mid-seventies.

Nick Pjevach February 24, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Richard,
couple of quick questions on Grossinger’s Resort
would you by chance remember any of the operating costs of the resort?
I would be interested to find out what some of the costs are to operate such
a large complex. (just think of the gas bill for those two boilers).
Very sad about Paul losing everything. Grossinger’s $1.8 mm loss in 1985 was
probably (or eventtually) covered by Paul personnally. That kind of loss is hard
for any one person (or family) to cover. (my father also covered losses for a
business and it ruined the last 10 years of his life-he died broke also covering
personally guaranteed debt of a business)
also enoyed your writing above
nick

admin February 4, 2012 at 6:52 pm

It’s from the 1970s, well before PDF days. Ann Arbor Microfilms made a version in the style of the day, and I know that that’s available in Maine libraries, perhaps by interlibrary loan. Some of the material appears in my books Book of Cranberry Islands and The Provinces.

Deborah Confer February 4, 2012 at 1:46 pm

I’m a research assistant to someone writing a report for the National Park Service on the traditional histories of Otter Cove and Isle au Haut. I would be very interested in reading your dissertation, The strategy and ideology of lobster-fishing
on the back side of Mount Desert Island, Hancock County, Maine. Is it possible to get a PDF version? Thanks so much.

Geoffrey Brown January 30, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Moving and sad and at the same time delightful. I grew up in Liberty, enjoyed Grossingers mostly from the outside but still able to see the place from my bedroom window. Your aunt Elaine was very kind to me when I was doing some grad school research on migrant manpower in the resort industry. Thank you for writing this.

Magdalena Ball September 9, 2011 at 10:38 pm

Thank you so much for these detailed and richly presented recollections. I’m writing a novel (as you so beautifully put it, “for curios and mementos, for jewels and heirlooms, and for memes of the elusive and illusory American paradise”) partly set at Grossinger’s in the 1940s, when my grandmother worked as a young singer (family mythology was that Jenny chose her from a competition in Central Park and brought her out to the hotel, where she subsequently met her husband, my grandfather, and changed the course of her life). Every piece of information I can find helps me to better reconstruct the setting and also illuminate my own history. Of course I would love to travel back in time and sit in the audience to verify memory, but your notes are almost as good.

David Gitin July 24, 2011 at 9:09 am

Richard, I love your ability to articulate the ‘dilemma’ (even if that articulation, including the capture as ‘dilemma’ is itself part of the issue). Snyder’s discussion of Buddhism and the Coming Revolution decades ago gave hint of this, forerunner perhaps. Andrew’s responses closely echo the talk we heard him give the other night, but good to have them here as part of the conversation. Thanks for pointing me to your website!

jonah mark bekerman June 4, 2011 at 11:16 am

wonderful reading

thankyou

elliot was going to give you a copy of breathing in the infinite

did he?

Anita Wolfenberger March 8, 2011 at 2:47 pm

I grew up in Brooklyn, NY. In 1964, after marrying (in Puerto Rico) to a Army man, I purchased a cookbook of Jewish cooking put out by your parents hotel. The Introduction is by your father.

I have no idea of the name of the book. The cover long ago gave way to white paper and scotch tape, the pages are missing corners and frayed all around, the book is only partly attached to what is left of it’s spine. In short it is well used.

I don’t know why I feel compelled to tell you this. I just read that the hotel is closed and am sorry to hear that. I believe I was there when I was about five or so, which would be around 1948. I have vague memories of a “talent” show of little kids.

(Mrs) Anita Wolfenberger
New Market, TN

Larry Olsen February 12, 2011 at 9:02 pm

Good Evening:
My brother, nearly 40 years ago, attended a technical competition that was held up at Grossinger’s in Upstate New York. The night before the competition, the hotel had a number of very talented people who put on various skits and songs, including “The Ballad of Irving” and a song about Washington at Valley Forge. One of the few lines that I remember was something about, “If Washington was Jewish, instead of Valley Forge, The Army would have wintered up at Grossinger’s with George!” Is this the same as the song you list on this site?
W/R,
Larry

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