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The Past Points to a Long Life

Labyrinth @ Joshua Tree Retreat Ctr
Returning to my favorite quickie getaway recharge town in the Mojave desert (Yucca Valley), I discovered the long shuttered coffee lounge is reopened.  Minor structural and decor' changes have occurred but its essential classic 40s architecture remains.  Pleasantly surprised after missing it for over a year, I ordered my coffee and quiche and went outside to enjoy the warm desert air. I started the day running into the annual Memorial Day parade on the main street, starring soldiers from the nearby 29 Palms Marine base.  Slightly peeved at the inconvenience, I did my ritual walk of the labyrinth at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center.   After saluted the seven directions at the medicine wheel, I found my way to the intersection of 29 Palms Hiway and Pioneertown Road.   I fully intended on driving home the long way through Landers and eventually to Deep Creek Hot Springs for a long hike.  But my tentative plan ran into a greater purpose.

Sighting a small, older man in deep concentration on a book by L. Ron Hubbard, I immediately (without thought) said his name and introduced myself.  What developed over the next two hours was a wide ranging, up to date conversation built on a powerful legacy of the Sixties.  This elder is a legend to my generation growing up in Los Angeles.  Art Kunkin was the publisher/ editor of one of the first and most successful 'alternative' newspapers back in the 60s and 70s, the Los Angeles Free Press.  His influence as a promoter of the emerging hippie/ radical culture can't be overstated.  If you aspired to hipness at all (and what high school kid didn't) his rag was required reading in my high school days.  It was how I found out about the anti-war movement, the protests in Berkeley, love-ins, Hair (the musical), concerts, marijuana etc.  In it I read poetry by Charles Bukowski, media criticism by Harlan Ellison, and excerpts from the Pentagon Papers by Daniel Ellsberg.  In those pre-Internet days the access to information was limited to the nine TV stations, the L.A. Times, and the local throwaway papers.  The excitement of the times was spread to the suburbs by newspapers such as the Freep (as it was affectionately known by its fans).  It was the only media we had.  No websites, no  MTV channel, not even a lot of phone calls (don't forget long distance was expensive).  The totality of alternative/ radical information was Mort Sahl expounding radical views and interviews on local KHJ TV and the Free Press.  By the late Sixties, its weekly circulation reached over 100,000.  

Seeking more of this exciting and new culture, occasionally my fellow wannabe hippies would make the long drive to Fairfax Ave in Hollywood and visit the Free Press bookstore.  It was a repository of hard to find items in 1967; candles, incense, radical books, black-light posters, beads, and bongs.  The crack in the 60s suburban conformity widened and became an outright fissure in America and the Free Press and others like it were the harbingers of Dylan's prescient 'Times They Are a Changin.'  Too young for the swirling storms brewing on the college campuses, we looked to Art Kunkin to keep us in the know.

Ran Rhino & Art Kunkin
Meeting this legendary figure of the Sixties, reinforced my view that this stage of life offers the chance to renew and revive the spirit of our youth.  We were a generation that had so much hope for improving the world and living differently.  We know how that all turned out.  My hope for change was buoyed by talking with Kunkin.  I discovered he is still in the vanguard.  He spoke at length about his latest project, a technology for living up to 200 years of age.    At 83, he is well versed on the latest advances in media and uses the Internet for disseminating his discoveries of ancient alchemical teachings for life extension. The techniques he works with can be read in detail on his website and in his weekly column. Not one to rest on his laurels, he is an exemplar of life-long growth, courage, and service. 

As I was leaving, Kunkin graced me with a very useful tip:  meditate on the attributes of those that inspire you.  Art Kunkin is one of those who influenced me from afar in my youth and now inspires me in my elder phase.  He represents forward thinking that is not bound by age .  At 60, 70, 80 and more, life can be a journey of exploration, growth, and service.  Looking at habits and comforts in my life and remembering the excitement of youth, my big take-away is never stop learning and when you learn something, share it. The second lesson of the day is to trust my intuition because it knows where I need to go.  Although I missed my hike to Deep Creek Hot Springs, the synchronous stop at the coffee lounge was right on time.


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