New York Avatar
No. 2, April 12, 1968

LeTTErS ?

7 Melbourne Ave.
Canberra
Dearest John,

I'm writing this before breakfast, in the hope that you will receive it in time to wish you a happy birthday, from us both. Heavens darling it doesn't seem 28 years since that nite you were born.

I think they have been 28 happy years for you. And I trust the next 28 will be profitable and rewarding. But only you can make them so.

I've just had a glorious weekend at Bate-haven with Dad - I think it is the most beautiful place in the world. We went to Denhams Beach for a surf and even scaled a cliff. Not bad at my age. It was good for Dad to get away, he works so hard, I worry about him. All his efforts are directed towards making this wonderful country of ours safe and free to live in. I'm not much good at words but I think you know what I mean.

Fondest love,

Mother

Dear Mother,

My teeth hurt when eat a candy bar, I am out on bail on my charges of selling an obscene thing to wit Avatar to minors. I got mugged on Second Street last week, in fact here in America I'm having a wonderful time, I love you more than ever.

Your wayward son,

John.


Dear Brian,

It is totally impossible to tell you all the things I know. There is so MUCH I can't tell anyone, not you, not Ebon, not David. But I know that you and they know a LOT of of what I know. Not everything but I can SEE how much everyone knows. Words are not enough to communicate everything. I need movies and sound and more than that. I need TOTAL music. Meanwhile you take care of the words and the pictures through Avatar. You do it for me so I don't have to do it. You begin to free me then. Then I'll ask for more until you and others are doing everything for me, with me, creating together, COMPLETELY together. Then we'll be free. You may walk differently, talk differently, do everything differently, but you will be me. So you have to find a lot of other people to be you to be me. All you do is SHOW others how to do it, how to be alive, how to be avatars.

SIX BILLION AVATARS!

Love, Mel

Dear Mel,

Can't you mind your own business and stay the hell out of my paper?

Love, Brian


Dear Brian,

Some time ago I read in the Village Voice that you were doing something with a paper called Avatar. Have been meaning to get a copy and yesterday I bought one in New York City. I like it! No. 15. It had a lovely picture of Pat and jolly Gully John.

It also had an exposition by you called Anti-freeze and Dropping Out. Please accept my comment as interrogatory and in Lawrence's spirit of WONDER. I'm trying to escape my bag of teacher and critic. Two points in the article aroused me particularly. Your question: 'what the devil was a man?' and your statement 'Reich landed up a nut.'

I don't know what experiences you have had with Reich's work, what books you've read or anything else. You must be somewhat aware of my feelings and thoughts regarding him. With varying degrees of understanding I've read most of his books available in translation, both the readily available and the others. I've also submitted myself to the practice of his theories. (excuse the circumlocution.) Well, with my experience I know that I can't say anything about the state of his health in his last years. People that knew him say that he was rational to the end. I am aware that the social comment is that Reich went crazy ... 'landed up a nut.' I repeat my question: What are your experiences with him? Brian, what do you know? I hesitate to say it but it seems to me that with your statement you are parroting the destructive and fearful and hateful statements of a society that couldn't stand to face the alternative offered it by Reich's work. Is it the work of a man to simply parrot? A parrot's task is to parrot. But a man... doesn't his capacity go beyond the ability to say: 'I'm here, I'm here, I'm here', or 'Look there, look there, look there.' A man can say: 'This because this.' But before he can do that he must be able to distinguish between his own experiences in the world and the reports of other people's experiences. And he must have the ability to stand the tension of contradiction and remain silent. He must also have the ability to refuse to be destructive on any basis but that of his own experience. A man isn't a rumor-monger, particularly a destructive one.

Reich did a hell of a lot of valid work. I know that I don't understand much of what he was doing toward the end, but I do know that a lot of work remains to us to either prove or disprove it. Of course it's not your fault that people will use your comment to dismiss all of his work. But you must be aware that they will. Maybe it was just a thoughtless comment: 'Reich landed up a nut.' But Brian, a man displays himself as man in his work as well as in bed. A journalist's work is either accurate reporting of what he perceives in the world or else thought-fullcomment.

Oh Well! Sigh! Deep breath!

Love to you and Pat and giggle and tickle for jolly John,

Pete Anderheggen

Dear Peter,

Yes Peter, I'm doing something with a paper called Avatar, doing just about what I feel like doing -- and sometimes that means putting people uptight like I did you although at the time I wrote that particular piece I wasn't thinking too much about you. I did wonder though why I said Reich landed up a nut (at the time I supposed it was just another thought-less comment, a sort of rumor-mongering that caused flap now and then), especially since I haven't the vaguest idea of what Reich landed up as. Neither do I have much idea of exactly who Reich was or what he did beyond being a name which invariably brought an expression of extreme reverence to the faces of ex-microbiotics (that was before they got into scientology -- of which I am also ignorant other than knowing it's the latest thing.)

Then I received your letter and realized that I must have been intent on piquing my old acquaintance, Peter Anderheggen. Believe me, at the time of writing I was totally unconscious of any such intention. If I had been otherwise, you can be assured that I would have been more to the point with something like: 'Reich landed up a nut: his armor cracked as a result of overexposure to his fanatical followers.' But that would have been improper. Improper. I should not deliberately bait anyone. God knows there's enough testy people around anyhow.

The problem is of course, Peter, that I was merely stating what I did perceive in the world, but not as you would have it, as a journalist. Just because the article appeared in what looks like a newspaper doesn't mean that it was journalism. In fact, if that article had any real point, it was that it was not journalism but something quite different, something not definable by the reason that it was probing the boundaries of my feelings, not my thoughts. That may not be clear to you caught in Lawrence's sense of WONDER. I can only say, get out of the intellectual rut, get yourself a paper, and you might see what I mean.

Terrible, terrible. Peter, don't worry about the niceties of intellectual form. Haven't you enough of that shit anyhow? What the hell are you doing in Norwalk, Connecticut? Wasn't Kingston, Rhode Island enough? Write an article for Avatar. loosen up or I won't print it.

As Norman Mailer once said to Bill Buckley, be a sport, Peter don't sue.

Love, Brian

P.S. If this reply pisses you off good. Get good and angry and when you're finished being angry come around and see me. Maybe you'll see that your anger and Reich and whether he was a nut or not has absolutely nothing to do with anything, especially the relationship between two people, you and me.


Dear Brian,

I'm sending along a few copies of the new issue, which I presume you haven't seen. The front page is still quite a wonder to me. As Mel said, I really didn't write it, it was written by God. I guess I more or less just typed it out, it certainly didn't feel like I had too much to do with it, even at the time it came out. The challenge now is to put those words to work in everyday situations -- no small task. Skip is furious and concerned about the support for Bobby Kennedy, he sees it as a threat to the whole youth movement. I'm still waiting to see what happens this summer. A whole lot has sure got to come together.

I went out today to sell papers, in part to make a little money, but mostly I think to feel out what was happening out there, to see the people that I've been writing to from this hilltop for almost a year now. Brother, they sure need us. What a sick lot there was in Harvard Square today. Totally unaware, totally uncaring. I wonder how we're ever going to get to them, to touch them as we all have touched each other. You know, you can write a thing, take anything you've written as an example, and while it might not come across to me in any way that I can intellectually accept, or rather, let's say that you always say things in a whole 'nother framework from mine. I can always understand myself in them. But those folks out there on the street, I wonder what they could even see in the things that we write, even if they bought the paper and read it. God, there's such a lot of them, totally separated from each other, why they don't even know they're on the same planet with each other. Isn't that incredible? I can hardly believe how out of it those poor people are. Their faces show an incredible pain, and yet they don't feel a bit of it. They are not just separated from everyone else, they're totally apart from themselves. How, oh how, will we ever get to them. I guess it means movies and TV, something that they are more forced into accepting. Still, I don't know, it is simultaneously the most hopeless task because it seems so impossible, and the most hopeful because it so obviously needs doing. And New York must be even worse.

By the way, I think I will hold with the oversize page. It is practically more feasible just because of the space, and somehow I kind of like the difficulty involved. I like making people work to get to what we've done (does this sound somehow inconsistent with the preceding paragraph?). I like the magazine smaller, however, it's like a miniature perfection within the whole of the paper.

 
The New York paper was fine, very fine. I only wonder about the separation you have. I presume that it will fill as a staff comes. But it seemed a little rarified to me. Just the movie hoax, for example, a great thing, but not the kind of stuff that touches people as you know. Pisces' thing on Grand Central Station was the nearest to what I can imagine you should be directing more effort to. But I guess you know that well enough.

There's a love-in tomorrow on the Cambridge Common. Remember when......?

Love to you, Carl, and dear old Pisces,

Wayne

Dear Wayne,

I hardly have to say how beautiful the last issue was, and I don't know who wrote the front page either. You can certainly take the credit for it though.

If the New York paper seemed a little rarified to you, it seems outright stratospherified to me now. In many ways I was surprised it came off as well as it did, but looking back there really doesn't seem to be much of us in it. Perhaps God also got into the act here, only in a perverse way, like the thing was Olympian rather than grubby New York. But that's what in part Eben and I went through. I do have a way of winging things off into space and away from the rest of the mortals. The problem lies in being conscious of it -- if we can stop being aware of our exalted status and get down below the people out there, then we can begin to lift them up. We can even crack a few jokes along the way, not that anything would stop John in any case.

It's a matter of recipe. Add a Bill Chamberlain to the mix and the cake is bedeviled. But you've got to do it in order to broaden your reach. As it happens with Bill, the movie hoax is about where he lives, just as the Doors piece is for Carl. For you or me or John, it's different. We know that we are only stopping for a moment to write a particular piece before going on (I better go past that last thing). While I think Carl is moving already, some time will pass before Bill gets underway. He will have to reach a point where he can't get a noun and a verb together. Then, fumbling, he'll begin. Watch out when that talent breaks out of the bind of taste and tradition, out of craftsmanship. That's what we're about of course, but you know that already. Look at John. He didn't even want to write, thought he couldn't until I said that was an excuse. (He's lucky in not being burdened with a liberal arts education.)

Sure, Wayne, those people in Harvard Square are hard to reach. The same here in New York. Such senility of feeling before 21 is frustrating to see. I sometimes think that someone else has got to them first and performed lobotomies of the soul all around. I fret along with you. What you say is right, that we have to find something they are forced into accepting.

Love, Brian


Dear Skipper,

I hear you am still bitching about Bobby Kennedy or at least Wayne's announcement that he is today's avatar for the presidency. Your complaint is that Kennedy's election will wipe out the youth movement. Well, as Billy Blake said about energy and temptation when a man can restrain his desires, it just means his desires are weak enough to be restrained. The same is true of course for the youth movement, whatever it is. Is it so weak that a young president can frustrate it? Nonsense, Skip, nonsense.

What are you really complaining about? Is it really the abstractions of revolution (remember this is America; Marxists have always been unhappy here), or the dilemmas of your own life, the worries you have, about your daughter, about how she could be affected by another disruptive move, about where you are going, and how you are going there? Which is realer to you, the barricade or, for instance, Avatar?

Imagine yourself black. What would your mood now be? You would be mourning the loss of a great man, as you already are, but in the sense of a personal, self-identifiable loss. And that's where it's at, Skip, the personal. All the hairy theories of quantitative change leading to qualitative change and wherever the locus of evil resides, in ownership of private property or not, has little, if anything, to do with how you feet about Kennedy, me, Mel or anyone in view. Make your judgment there. There's the road to revolution, true revolution.

Skipper, it seems lately that I exist to bug you. That's because I love you, you know.

Love, Brian


Dear Everyone:

arragh!

It's only kind of an always emergency, you know one of those now what do I do times that creeps up behind you and grabs you while you're backing away from it on your tiptoes.

The Washington Cathedral is a real home, I remember the tower steps, and the slit window sunlight, the Hons, and rams and roses in the railings, and sunsets through the windows and doors, and how there is always a song I sing to, myself there, except that now I remember the words.

So I kind of went down there very early last Sunday and was just wandering around feeling a lot of different things at once, like what in the world was I gonna do about the world, and pain, and O.K. HOW do I do it, and I was beginning to see when I really looked, and I kind of knew I should talk to people about everything and all that I knew that they wanted to know. And I remembered how in the last issue somebody said that the only way to understand Mel was to become Mel, but I kept telling myself that I'd never even met Mel, except that I knew him a whole better than these people did, and that wasn't fair, and all I knew was that all of a sudden 1 had to tell them what I knew. So I did, and they listened, they asked questions and I knew answers. And I stayed there all day through all the services, and we all kind of really got to know each other, I mean we were on waving smiling across the crossing on the guided tour terms, and by Evensong we were just a whole bunch of people riding on a subway together the best way and they didn't even have a sermon we just all sat around smiling at each other while the choir sang some extra anthems.

So it's really great to know ya, Mel.

Right now you're probably asking yourself what time is it in the Pleiades or where the hell is that percolator you promised? And where were you when we needed you? And the answer is: feeling guilty but not as guilty as I should have felt or you would have known how sorry I felt sooner, instead of later.

What I've been trying to do is get donations and stuff of all kinds together, and Pablo's stuff out of storage, and the lawyers to give me the emergency fund and talk to everybody I can. (Avatar needs stuff to fill holes). All of which take longer than they need to. And I will get there as soon as I can get there. Some guy down here has a whole bunch of Leica equipment for sale which I'll look into If you tell me what you needed and what would be a good price for it used. Some people an interested in ads so I could use an ad rate card or three, and some people want to subscribe they think, and some stores think they might want to carry the paper, so I'll keep bugging them about it. Wow I sure was able to all all the papers I brought, in just a few minutes on a rather dreary weekday, so Somebody in Washington should have more to sell, so I'll give them a harder time about carrying it -- nicely of course.

I miss you -- talk about the wages of sin.

With love,

Liz Pisces