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Mindfuckers pp 321-324
Rolling Stone p 60 [#99]

The Lyman Family's Holy Siege of America

by David Felton


On December 8th, 1971, Mel Lyman sent the following letter to his fourth grade teacher, Dixie Duke, in Santa Rosa:

Dear Mrs. Duke:
Received your warm and friendly letter this morning. I thought I'd better write and warn you about the ROLLING STONE article before you got the wrong impression. The first installment just came out and the second installment will be in the next issue. This is the one that will probably contain parts of your conversation with David Felton. The first one is mainly negative, made up mostly of interviews with people who don't like me. They've used me to glorify themselves and completely distorted all the facts, they've even changed history to make me look bad and themselves good. I'm not complaining, mind you, I'm just pointing out that most of the things said about me and my communities are untrue; I'm used to being misinterpreted. I've made a lot of enemies over the last ten years and they get in a dig every chance they get. Still, it's good publicity. I sound like a very exciting character, kind of a modern day John Dillinger. The next issue will hopefully be a little closer to the truth as the people interviewed are not necessarily hostile towards me and also this coming issue will contain a direct interview with me and at least I will be represented by my own words. There are a lot of things you aren't going to be able to understand about me, my religious convictions, etc., but it is all just language anyhow and words are never as important as personal evaluation.
Received your lecture about the merits of profanity. I had to laugh. I, too, wished there weren't so many dirty words in the book but you have to remember that the book is made up entirely of letters I wrote in my youth and I couldn't tidy it up now just because I'm a little older and wiser. It was an accurate history of growing pains. And for my obsession with bodily excrements I can only plead guilty, in some ways I'm afraid I will always be a vulgar little man. But again, to me it's only language, I use the words that best communicate the thought or feeling; can you think of a better way to say, "aw, shit!"
It seems you were put off a little by my trials and tribulations in the book, and the worst parts were left out because I was even too miserable to write letters. But... that is one of the reasons I put the book out; to show that the human spirit cannot be defeated and that adversity only strengthens a man's character; it grinds out the littleness in him, it deepens him.... And that is why so many young people come to me for guidance, because they know I can understand their problems. So rest assured that I haven't lost any of my appreciation for the beauty of the world, spending so much time in the ugliness only served to distinguish beauty by the lack of it.... And the weaker souls among us need encouragement. A lot of people just don't have it in them to get up after they've been knocked down. And those of us who have that kind of strength must share it... over the years I have learned how to build, I have learned how to start at home with the people around me and that is the basis of my communities. I remember when you made me play baseball against my will because I was afraid I would fail. I remember when I was afraid of a bully and you said if it was you you would go out and lick him. We had a community and you were the leader, and now I am the leader of my own community. Life is really very simple, it is only the attempts to communicate it that make it seem complex. Well I guess I'm giving you a schoolboy lecture but it's nice to know that I've learned something, isn't it. Write me again after you've read the two issues of ROLLING STONE and tell me if you still like me....
Love, Mel

* * *

Henry Poirot is the young Bay Area sales manager for Ballantine Books, the company distributing Mirror at the End of the Road. On Saturday, November 13th, he met with George Peper and Owen deLong, and this is his account of what occurred:
"The way it happened was George and Owen looked me up, you know, to persuade me to push Mel's book harder. They struck me as very... intense people. Right off, they wanted to do my chart. Anyway, one thing led to another, and the three of us got together on a Saturday morning to play basketball. Afterwards, we went up to their house on Buena Vista for a coke, and they asked me what I thought of Mel's book. Well, I'm used to talking straight with people, and I thought we were on a friendly basis, so I told them in effect that I didn't think it was worth shit, although I'd promoted it to book store owners more than I ordinarily push a single book. I mean, I'd written a promo release on my own and so forth, but I told them that the book seemed rather absurd to me. I mean, so Mel went through a bum trip and suffered for a few years, right? Well, what the fuck, we all did that, right? I don't set myself up as any critic, but I can read, I'm as literate as the next guy, and I found the book wanting - nothing personal, just a critical opinion.
"Well, right away when they caught the drift of what I was saying, George and Owen began to insult me, call me names. They said I was lazy and accused me of wanting a free ride, a cheap ride. Then, abruptly, very, very quickly, George kicked me in the face. My glasses flew off somewhere, and I was groping around on the floor trying to find them, and George jumped on top of me and grabbed my shirt collar and kept yelling insults at me. I was very disoriented, everything had happened so suddenly, and the thought entered my mind that they might crucify me. I mean, I was aware of the parallels between the Manson people and Lyman's people, and I just didn't know what they might do.
"Ordinarily, I'm the kind of guy who when somebody kicks me in the face, I'll try to kick him in the balls, but I didn't pursue it physically in this instance because they had me outnumbered, and I truly didn't know what they were capable of doing to me. Anyway, I gathered myself together and left. I mean, George was always talking to me about 'feelings,' and I never knew what he meant.
"Anyway, George called me early that evening. He pointedly refused to apologize, and when I made some reference to his attacking me, he said something like, 'It happened, that's the way things are. Now let's get on with business.'
"When George kicked me and jumped on me, I really did think of crucifixion. I looked at George's eyes and I could see a total lack of control. One minute we were talking, I thought reasonably, and the next - whammo! - George came at me like out of a catapult.
"Well, we're still on business terms, but we don't play basketball on Saturday mornings anymore."

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