I did a freshman year in high school in North Dakota then got a scholarship to the Phillips Exeter Academy, a boarding school in New Hampshire where I attended 2 and one half years. I connected to the scholarship through a program run by the Minneapolis Tribune, a newspaper I delivered.
Exeter has a lot of famous alumni, probably the most well known to the younger generation would be Mark Zuckerberg who got the idea for Facebook at Exeter.
When I went to Exeter I repeated the grade. The cut off in ND at that time for what grade you were in was Nov. 1st and I was just a few days shy of that so young for my grade and I had taken Shop and an Agricultural course which didn’t translate well into Exeter academics hence the repeat.
Which meant that the kids I grew up with were graduating in 1967 while I was Exeter ’68. That wasn’t the only reason I dropped out, there was also a lot of teenage angst going on, as well as the fact that at that time Exeter was still an all boys school. I was also starting to realize that the war in Vietnam was a huge mistake.
I went back home mid year and by the following fall I was in Concordia College. Needless to say, after 2 1/2 years of living in a dorm , college life wasn’t as exciting to me as it was to a lot of the wide eyed incoming freshman. As a matter of fact, I found myself hazing them like I had been hazed years before.
The academics weren’t as challenging as I was used to and I basically put little effort into them.
That summer I took a job in Minneapolis at a Whirlpool factory assembling ice cube making machines. We built them for 6 different companies, including Sears brand Kenmore, the only difference being which tag we put on at the end of the line.
By mid summer I had tired of that and quit. I then met Duke. Duke was a 30 something from Harlem who had a cool convertible and made his living hustling, a character right out of some novel. He would go out at night and come back with a pocketful of dollars. He had been a pimp in San Fransisco but got into some trouble there and was looking for a port in a storm. We gave him a place to stay until he go on his feet which he did quickly.
My roommate and I were smoking pot thus already on the illegal side of the law so when he introduced us to meth it wasn’t a hard sell. Once started meth quickly became the dominant feature of my life and the very reason for existing.
After about a month Duke hooked up with another tough and robbed a gas station for money to travel back to the West Coast. We read about the robbery in the newspaper.
We gave up the apartment so I traveled to SF to find Duke. I never did find him and somehow ended up living in Long Beach, California. I used to travel a lot and considered if I had spent a month or more in a single place that I had lived there.
While there I took a day trip to LA and ended up in Griffith Park on a week end day. Music was going on in three different areas. One was a bunch of guitars jamming and another was about 40-50 drummers doing a drum circle, quite impressive.
The third was devotees doing hari nama. Fortunately for me, I must have had some small attraction. After I got out of jail later, I remember going music store to music store, trying to find karatals, the small hand cymbals devotees use. No one had them of course and I didn’t hear them again until years later. Somehow or another the crystal clear sound penetrated the cloak of ignorance I was tightly wrapped in and connected with my soul.
So some attraction was there, maybe not for the Holy Name itself but for some portion of the sound vibration. Of course I was so strung out, and probably on the 3rd or 4th day of not sleeping so I was incapable of just leaving that behind and joining the movement at that point but the seed had been planted.
I think Krishna saw the predicament I was in and that I had even a nano amount of attraction and interest and set in motion the events that would save me.
So any devotee who reads this and was in Griffith Park fourth quarter of 1968 doing hari nama, public chanting of God’s names, thank you.