Ah, to be young, artistic and in New York City. It was 1964, a magical time. John Sebastian was playing at the Night Owl Cafe, coffee houses did abound and you could pass the hat with the likes of Peter Tork, Fred Neil and Richie Havens.
Bob Dylan wrote “She's got everything she needs; she's an artist, she don't look back.” That was me: I was nineteen.
Just when I was about to be kicked out of my basement apartment, my job had ended abruptly and my parents cut me off for the third last time, I knew a door had to open somewhere. The door was to the basement club on Bleeker Street in The Village, at MacDougal. The Cafe AuGoGo was in need of a light and sound man. The job paid $35 a week, which even then was not enough to live on. But it was at the Cafe AuGoGo and it was in The Village and it was 1964. What could be better?
I arrived at the job with a suitcase, two guitars and a banjo. I slept on the floor of the light booth. On the down side, the ice machine had a nasty habit of waking me up in the middle of the night and once the lights were out, there was no light at all. On the up side, I could slip out after the show, sing for a couple of hours at the local clubs and come back before the regular janitor closed up. One night, I even threw on the lights and sound, climbed onto the stage with my guitar and did an entire show – just me – to the dark, empty house. Playing to the dark must have been what it was like for George Carlin and Oscar Brown Jr. – except there were no applause for me.
I lived in the Cafe Au Go Go sound booth until on night the relief night janitor tripped over me in the dark. I was reported as a dead body. The police made me find a new place to live.
The hotel a block away had a bed and a chair, with no room for more, with a shared bath down the hall, for $11.00 a week. It was a dangerous place but at least I could shower.
As the light and sound man I also supplied guitar picks to Mike Bloomfield, told a joke to George Carlin, heard Eric Anderson's newest song that was his only hit and was snubbed by Bob Dylan.
Richie Haven's manager told me to mic his foot, so I did. Oscar Brown Jr. told me to sing my own song and if people didn't love it, sing it again – or rewrite it. George Carlin told me to stop telling jokes. John Lee Hooker told me to let the music flow from my soul and I'd never have to worry if it was right. Then the Draft Board told me it was time to come home.
National finger-picks were no longer available because the metal was needed to make shell casings for Vietnam. Young idealistic musicians, it seemed, were needed to fire them and the magic ended. I left The Village behind in August.
I didn't get discovered, but in retrospect, I didn't get hooked, shot or arrested either.
The universe, in all Her majesty and wonder, holds many secrets. Some take a lifetime to discover while others are as obvious as the rising and setting of the sun. In Jon Batson’s latest book, Secrets of the Universe, Jon explores the seemingly mystical witticisms of our everyday living. These witticisms sprinkled generously throughout the book, vary from the candid to confrontational and from the surreal to the sublime.
If you are a mystic, not in the original sense, but in a modern-day interpretation – one who believes that there is great mystery in the world to explore and uncover, you’ll find Secrets of the Universe a refreshing change from the heavy, deep thinking that books of this regard can exhibit. Perhaps you are simply curious about the ways of the Universe yet to be uncovered. If so, you will enjoy the journey as you move effortlessly through the passages of the text.
It could be argued that it is not the Universe that holds secrets, but it is us who hold ignorance in greater regard than the wisdom that the Universe yearns to impart within us. The Universe simply waits for each of us to relinquish our ignorant understanding and open our spirits to a higher level of awareness and a deeper level of self-exploration. Understanding oneself is a journey we often wait until much too late in life to begin and then mourn the wasted years of wisdom now escaped.
Along the journey of life, we ignorantly believe that with age comes wisdom as if somehow the Universe holds Her secrets until we are of an age of certain discernment. In fact, the universal secrets She holds are all around us, arguably from the moment we have a sense of self, She opens her enveloped arms to reveal Her treasures, yet we often remain blissfully ignorant.
Wisdom invites contrary thinking. It invites meaning and musing. Some fear the wisdom of the Universe, for a life of curiosity brings angst. Diane Sawyer, a longtime anchor for ABC News, said “Wake up curious.” Perhaps Ms. Sawyer’s words say exactly what the Universe has been quietly whispering for an eternity. Perhaps the invitation of contrary thinking is an open door, never to close and to forever swing in both directions.
Curiosity is the reflection of wisdom, for without one, the other surely cannot exist. They need each other, no differently than we need air to breathe and food to fuel bodies. Why do we fear the secrets that the Universe holds, when it is our birthright to wake up curious?
Whether you call them secrets, truths or pearls of wisdom, what is true is that the Universe holds the answers we crave. While we desire higher learning, higher understanding and higher education, all that we desperately seek is actually right in front of us. Harnessing the secrets of the Universe takes no more effort than inhaling and listening to the beat of your heart as the air rushes through every cell within your physical being.
The Universe, in all Her majesty and mysticism, does not hold onto Her secrets. These secrets we perceive are nothing more than the absolute truths that She holds in the palm of her benevolent hand. Her hand, always open to us, is ready for our revelation.
Before you endeavor to read Secrets of the Universe, ask yourself, “Do I wake up curious?” If you don’t, put the book away until tomorrow. Then, ask yourself the question again in the morning. Until you wake up curious, the depth of being that this book requires will be lost in the ignorance of the lesser understanding of oneself. If you are not ready for the richness of wisdom, then surely wisdom will never find you.