The Readmore

The Health Food Store was a magnet for quite a bunch. Standing directly across the street was the Readmore, so it was only natural that its employees would often step over during their breaks for a chat and sit-down with Loyal. Given the frequency of my stops to pick up various weight-gain products with which to develop my manful physique, it was inevitable I would eventually meet this entirely new segment of the Aquarian Age sooner or later. Such a coming together would, in fact, have rather astounding repercussions lasting more than forty years, nearly a lifetime.

The Readmore was very fine indeed. I've mentioned previously in this memoir how bookstores have always been my Nirvana, dating way back to grade school days. By 1972, the time of today's tale, I had become totally obsessed with the Hermetic arts. Well, the Readmore maintained a very nice selection of works on these: astrology, the Golden Dawn, alchemy, ceremonial magic, Rosicrucianism, hypnotism, Wicca, Egyptian lore, tarot, Qabalah and so forth. Unlike the newsstand trash put out by Zolar, Fate magazine, and Parker, here were whispered-of works from real publishers: Samuel Weiser, Llewellyn, Helios, Newcastle, the Theosophical Society and more. The most esoteric of authors were represented at the Readmore: Aleister Crowley, Israel Regardie, Dion Fortune, P. E. I. Bonewitz, MacGregor Mathers, Eliphas Levi, A. E. Waite...the list went on and on. It was verily a truth-seeker's El Dorado.

One of the clerks I met was Tom. I seem to recall that his uncle owned the Readmore, so there was probably a little nepotism in the book trade. We were of an age, both students at the same college. Tom had insanely long hair, halfway down his back and straight as could be. Apparently the owner felt this would be bad for custom, so Tom had to queue it up and wind it into a knot, hiding it under a hideous rayon wig when on duty.

I used to visit Tom at his flat on Broad Street, not more than five blocks from my place on Fourth. He lived on the top story of one of those onion-dome houses. It was a really cool place, quite mystical. The walls were covered with paintings, and it turns out that he was artist, and in fact maintained a studio in one of the domes just mentioned. He was driven by art, which I took in the sense: business as usual. In those days, everyone
did something, and the attitude was, "Yeah, so what?" We just came to expect accomplishment to be SOP.

Tom was into Wicca, the first witch I had ever met. I was curious to learn the ins and outs of what he did, simply because I was interested in learning anything new. But I always felt that Wicca lacked a legitimate pedigree, unlike the Hermetic arts which occupied my attention. Nonetheless, in a way our diverse interests shared a common heritage; we were both signatories of the Aquarian Age and for more reasons than one.

Not long thereafter, Tom escaped our town's orbit, ending up in Wisconsin I think. I would imagine he still paints, but I bet he divested himself of Wicca eventually. Just a hunch.

Back to the Readmore. If I really wanted to, I could finish off this story with a single word: Mike.

But you'd no doubt like to know more, so here goes. Mike was the other youthful clerk at the Readmore. That really was a long time ago and memory of some things fades ever more rapidly nowadays, but I suspect we met formally in Loyal's Health Food Store. Even if we didn't, no matter: that's where we should have met. I'd give anything to hear a recording of our first chat. I'm sure the phrase
covering the spectrum is totally feeble and inadequate.

Whatever. For any number of reasons or conglomeration thereof, we two hit it off instantly. In conversation, the
drilling was as deep as it was wide. For you see, flat out, Mike possesses the sharpest mind of any single person I've ever known. The wealth of his background in classical philosophy, the Liberal Arts, languages (he speaks several and is never afraid to learn more) is staggering. But more: he is also hands-down the best read person I have ever been lucky enough to know. Any topic is fair game when a discussion is launched. And his sense of humor can best be described as obscene.

Right from those days in 1972 on up to today, we have needed neither prefaces nor footnotes when in conversation with each other. In a nutshell, rapport.

As near as I can tell, his only failing is a propensity to use -ly adverbs, an affectation he hopes puts him over as a Brit. Oh, and he fails to understand satiety when it comes to fried potatoes.

Eventually Mike and I attended several classes together, including one in symbolic logic from a philosophy instructor whose eyes could focus no more closely than thirty feet away, and rather interestingly, a course in chess which fulfilled our physical education requirement for a Bachelor's degree. Many ribald comments ensued in class. His allusions to forking the bishop no doubt stemmed from an upbringing in the Catholic Church, a debilitating impediment most people aren't able to shake. No doubt Mike's accomplishment at making telephone poles move closely together by mental powers, not to mention his attainment of the Rosicrucian Grip, helped him overcome the dark influence of Rome. I do remember that the pages of his copy of Mandamus #32 were stuck together, precluding advancement to the final degree.

Over these many years, he and I have debated slews of propositions, analyzed countless arguments together, discussed so many different issues that you would swear I was lying if I described even a handful of them. I do remember our initial debate, however: which came first, language or thought?

I wonder how many hours he and I have engaged in discourse these forty years? In any event, the outcomes have been mixed. One night, I conceded defeat when he was finally able to convince me that the Golden Rule was logically inconsistent with formalism. And then, over the course of several bull sessions, I finally got him to see the merits of Oscar Wilde's "life imitates art," not as irony, but as a bald-faced statement of fact.

Sloth is not a virtue. Facility is not a praiseworthy aim in life. Somnambulism, with so much to learn in so little time, is hardly admirable.  If nothing else, coming of age in Aquarius meant
thanking the gods for that swift kick to the seat of the pants, not whining about it.

What I'm getting at is simply this: knowing Mike from those early days of the Readmore on, has always pushed me. Best of all, whenever my memory slips a bit, he reminds that there are actually three evil kings. Now that's a friend...

Next installment: The Unitarian Center

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