9/15 - Part One

Today, September 15th, 32 years ago, I left Europe for good, not knowing then that I would become a US citizen and would make my home in the United States. I was a reluctant adventurer, nervous about not knowing where, what and how. I had no family or friends in the US only friends that had been to California and had experiences I too longed to have.

In the seventies, in Switzerland, most of us in our teens and twenties, we considered ourselves the alternative, the cutting edge, of what, we did not really know. We had our own tiny tea room (The Stuebli) where despite rumors, no drugs were to be had. We all sat on the floor, on carpeted pillows crafted to perfection by my dear friend Joe. We sipped herbal teas, welcomed strangers and fed them brown rice with sauteed onion rings, for free. We were anti-establishment and anti-commercialism in general and on principle. And this in the heart of Europe, Zuerich, the center of banking and commerce, and high standard of style and living.

Likely because of it, we sought community and altered states, some with and some without the help of drugs. We took delight in spontaneous humming and chanting or silences. Some of us took part in Dwuno's "Under-intellectual Gatherings." Fritze had his own essential oil line even then. I remember how this big man, with his big heart, and his big nose, which afforded him an exquisite sense of smell, introduced me to the scent of Vetivier. This happened decades before essential oils would go main stream.

Dear Fritze, then 24 years old, was also the guy that introduced us to solar power as he showed us a simple water container painted black. From him I learned, in the very early seventies, of glaciers about to melt and communities, such as San Francisco, about to drown (timing may not have been his forte.) Global Warming is not a new concept. It has been on the horizon for many decades already. Al Gore has shown us how coastal communities will likely be threatened by the warming atmosphere that melts our glaciers and gives rise to higher sea levels. (One of the saddest and most shocking things I heard was recently from a light (not exactly white) pigmented South African photographer who considers Global Warming a myth perpetuated to keep the up and coming nations down so as not to permit them the same opportunities the western world already exploited!)

Fritze played an important role in Speak Out, an organization by youth for youth in trouble, with the law or drugs. Speak Out had it's outreach center in old town among the whores that then still were able to work the streets day and night. Some of those at risk youths got a chance at intervention in a therapeutic community setting in the country. It was the early seventies, a time for experimentation, for shedding social roles and 'jumping the system' (as we would say in Hakomi Therapy terminology.) 

Every New Year, for some unknown reason, we watched Easy Rider (of course I never ever dreamed that I would make my home near Taos where good parts of this movie were shot.) We read Carlos Castaneda's first book in it's boot legged print in German. Books on Massage and Bioenergetics followed. Carlos from South America showed up and with him we had our own  Bioenergetics Thearpist (young and sexy) that helped us breath right through our own personal blockades. We even took a workshop with an Esalen Massage Therapist given at our 5 bedroom apartment. Paulo Knill, Director then of the Theater Department at the liberal arts Lesley College in Boston would inspire us with his weekly Thursday morning classes, where I first learned the basics of Contact Improvisation, of trusting the ground we stood and rolled on. We learned to engage our core muscles and go with the flow while we were free to feel our feelings. Paulo had embraced the principles of Primal Therapy. Primal scream boxes popped up in attics and cellars all over. We were intent on liberating the inner hurt child by feeling our feelings and working through our primal pains. By embodiment of our  injuries we hoped to transform ourselves from victims in to empowered, creative, artistic, fully alive human beings.  Those were powerful and transformative and today I would say also strangely addictive processes.

We listened to Leonhard Cohen, Cat Stevens, The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd and later John and Yoko, to name only a few, but most often engaged with spontaneous acoustic music wherever it erupted, often played on a guitar, with a sitar thrown in for good measure, sometimes accompanied by a flute that would soar up high and not to forget Bongos of all sizes to be pounded upon. Yeah, even I would wander those ancient streets of old town after midnight. I would softly play my little wooden recorder and felt an alienation that strangely suited me, that seemed to set me apart from main stream. 

We shopped, when we could afford it, at Mister Natural, our first alternative health food store. Dwuno would severely reprimand us when we brought conventional commercial brown rice to our tea room. In the early mornings I would walk down the hill with an aluminum (I am afraid those were the kinds used then) kettle of fresh whole milk in hand for our Chai of the day or rather night. I have fond memories of those very early and very late peaceful times on ancient, cobble stoned, narrow, rivulet-like streets.  I had been liberated only recently from an ordinary, somewhat stultifying Swiss childhood. Times seemed sweet and and full of promise. 

In search of further altered, exalted states I departed from Zuerich and later Amsterdam to eventually arrive in New York, the United States exactly 32 years ago to this day.

Continued with Part Two 


  1. Fascinating read, Om. It's strange how lives can follow parallel paths for a while without intersecting, although I have to confess that I only ever flirted with the so-called alternative lifestyle; I'm more of a smogasbord person than an a la carte.
    I look forward to following the rest of the story.

  2. Part of a mail I just got forwarded from Martin Guggenheim(?) in regard to an upcoming gathering intent on remembering the 70th in Zuerich:

    "Sit mer uf dä Wält sind sägeds: gang go schaffe, heb de Latz, chrampfe muesch und Gäld verdiene, susch bisch z'Züri fähl am Platz, Globus, schwarze Ring und Blow Up, Allmänd, Bunker, s'Odeon - sind uf öisem Liidenswäg alli nur Station ... was mit öisne Gfühl passiert, das isch ne einerlei, dänn ihre Leitsatz, dä heisst hütt no: "ARBEIT MACHT FREI"

    (sorry, unable to translate from Swiss-German)