Sunday, October 27, 2019

Confused and bewildered in the American Southwest

The earth seems to be cracking around me.  I'm confused and bewildered.  I have never spent so much time looking things up on the internet or in the "Urban" dictionary.
          I haven't posted for a while and it isn't because we haven't had anything to report, in fact, maybe too much to report.  I've had a rash of lousy internet and well, some of the places we've went to....well...reporting from there would be covered under something akin to the CIA, and basically to mis-quote Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean, "Only those that know where it is, know where it is."  but well, where we are staying now, deserves some mention, as vague as it may be.

Let us get you up to speed...

We stayed in Phoenix for a while, then went to extreme Southern California where I drive over to the Salton Sea and saw a strange "White headed" Ruddy Duck.  It is probably the rarest bird I'll ever see but in the end it is just a ruddy dick with a white head.

Then we went to San Diego to see Silja's Brother and sister-in-law Bill and Nina who are sailing their way from Portland OR to Cabo San Lucas Mexico standing next to the Gypsy.

After that there seemed to be a lot of confusion going on in my mind trying to figure things out.  We left De Anza and drove to another DeAnza, this one south of Green Valley, AZ near Tucson.  We visited a couple I knew from birding.  Thor and his wife, Joan live in Green Valley and we came to visit and hike in the Florida Canyon for something to do.  We couldn’t stay in Green Valley at the Green Valley RV Park because I am not 55.  No one can live here if they are under 55, they can't even stay at the RV park overnight.  I wonder how that is even legal, and it certainly isn’t right.  What really is wrong with kids and families?  Can they have segregated communities, too?  To be blunt, we just don't like it, but we like Thor and Joan.  
View from Thor and Joan's patio

            Well after a great dinner and a lazy morning, we pulled out on I-19 and drive into a worsening cross wind that progressively strengthened until we got to Tucson and then had a head wind until we got off at Benson.   Big Bird bounced along on washboards as we followed a rather curvy route out in the desert.  The road got a little narrow and loose until I decided to drop my tow car off the trailer about a mile from the destination.  We found the place early and had the pick of camping spaces.  We met the host, Dana, who was giving a tour to four older people from New Mexico that were dressed like it was January in South Dakota.  Apparently, they were just visiting to check out the place. 
            I found this place on a website as a destination.  I asked everyone who is anyone about it, and most hadn’t heard anything, but Bev Price had been here and thought we could get our RV in, and we did.  The owner is a man named Dana, he survived a wildfire in Southern California by having his dogs waking him up and being able to leave on a moment’s notice as the fires bore down on him.  His next door neighbors neighbors asphyxiated trying to survive the flames in their pool.  As they say,  they chose poorly.  He then spent some time in New York before coming to Arizona to take care of his grandmother.
The Desert Sanctuary, he now owns, was built as the Sri Ram Ashram and was co-founded by famous Harvard Professor and LSD advocate Timothy Leary.   In the early 1970s, Bill Sheatsley, Bill Haines and their spiritual brothers bought a tract of land in the desert outside of Benson, Arizona and founded Sri Ram Ashram naming it after their guru, Ramamurti S. Mishra. Bill Sheatsley designed and built almost singlehandedly the poured concrete structures that became its hallmark residences, classrooms and meditation hall.   A lot of what actually went on here and how much Timothy Leary had to do with it has apparently been lost to history.  Was this a place for LSD experimentation?  It is a bit scary.  Richard Nixon once called Leary the most dangerous man in America for his drug beliefs.   He did spend time in 38 different prisons, some sort of record that doesn't seem like a record that should be remembered.  
Certainly, the ashram had to become a center of drug experimentation and of baby boomers searching for what they perceived they lacked in their lives.   What else was it?  Did people find the peace, harmony, and enlightenment they craved?  I don't know.  I think enlightenment in life is what you make it.  Look around you....this may be all you get so enjoy it.  
Of all things, The Spiritual Conference for Radical Faeries was held August 31–2 September 2, 1979, at the Sri Ram Ashram in Benson, the foundational event that began the Radical Faeries community.  This event was described as a four-day acid trip without the acid by participants (if that can be believed).  As it looks, Sheatsley’s interests moved on to other things, as did the baby Boomers who by the 1980s had moved back to Ronald Reagan and to making a living.   What happened in the early 80s to the Baby Boomers?  Maybe they just got tired of the drugs, the fast cars, the drinking, the wife swapping, and everything.....when I got 18 in 1984, it was basically over.  They even moved up the drinking age to 21, 9 days after got to be 18, but they ended the draft.
This places history was not over though....
In 1985, the World University purchased the former ashram and called it the Desert Sanctuary Campus, located at the foot of the Rincon Mountain Range near Benson, Arizona, and in 1987 completed the move of its operations from California to the latter location.  Dr. Zitko’s teaching was a combination of New Age theosophy philosophy and promoted world peace through world education.  He authored several books that embodied the alternative perspective on education and life represented by the university: New Age Tantra Yoga (1974) and The Cybernetics of Sex and Love (1985).  He was also an early lecturer on Lemuria, a theorized lost continent including a lost race of four-legged beings that died out due to various theories that range from a flood to finding sex (they were hermaphrodites that laid eggs) and interbreeding with humans after they found out they liked it and died out, but many of us have their genes in us.  In the Bible The sons of god bred with the daughters of man and giants were begotten.  Look up Lemuria if you've never heard of it.  It will open your eyes into how many believe....  
So, this property went from a drug induced hippie type ashram to a University based on Tantric sex and teaching odd metaphysical and occultist theories (Theosophy), including that the current human race is derived from insect like aliens, and we are searching for a lost enlightenment when the Lemurians died.   So the Ashram tried to get enlightenment through LSD....and this university through higher teachings, hidden knowledge and sex....both of which could be called a religion.
 After Dr. Zitko's death at the age of 92 in 2003, interest in the University waned and the property fell into disrepair over the years and all of the structures had caved in by the time the current owner Dana Dawson bought it twelve years later.  Where the money from the sale went is a question placed on the internet., it is supposedly in trust somewhere.  Dana spent five years rebuilding the historical structures and in general, it looks quite nice.  They have cabins and nice pool area.  They could use some leveling fill for the campsites, though.  So what is it now?  To be fair and honest, I’m not really sure.
It is hard to figure out what the goal Dana has for this place.  Is it a center of free-expression?  Is it just a cool place to visit?  What?  It is an open place although as I write this, we are the only people here so it is hard to get an idea of who visits the B&B or cabins, or what he wants.  The internet doesn't say too much of what visitors he is striving for.  Dana, though, has listed the place for sale for $1,500,000 with a realtor.  It is "adults only" but it is definitely not what that can mean in some places of the "Urban" dictionary.   The owner is just afraid of liability, he perceives kids (like Green Valley?) as a liability.  He hosted the annual meeting of the Bears of the Old Pueblo here last week.  For those of you that don’t know, in the gay community, bear is often a larger or obese hairier man who projects an image of rugged masculinity.  Not that there is anything wrong with this, or nor that I care, but I was just showing how this place still sort of attracts groups and people from the periphery of society.
I guess I'm from the periphery of society.  The sanctuary doesn’t even have its own internet and uses the odd little site called  In thinking about this place, we are looking for future locations to visit and spend large chunks of the winter.  Unfortunately, no matter how much we end up liking it, I find it hard to get too enthused about a place that may end up purchased by a Hollywood movie star in the not too distant future.  That may seem like an odd comment but John Travolta and Sandra Bullock own places that are within a few miles of here.
Our RV here

A couple in a smaller class-c motorhome passed us as we were going on a walk.  The rig had New Mexico plates.  They were parked at the other end of the camping area when we got back.  It was good to not be camping alone.  I was hoping maybe they would be nice people.  They were working on their motorhome, so I never went down to see them.  We would have lit a campfire but due to the wind, open fires were banned.  About a half-hour later they zipped past us and headed out. 
            I ran into Dana the owner, again, who said, the guy had to take his companion to Sierra Vista but was coming back afterwards.  I was thinking, no one is coming back.  One wasn’t driving up here after dark. I figured, so I hope he got paid.  This isn’t exactly the highest end campground in the world, but it was better than a National Forest campground.  Dana also said they were going to the Halloween party at Mira Vista in Tucson.  I was thinking about that.  So, the party is tomorrow.  Mira Vista is full, I know, I called them.  That party involves drinking and how exactly were they getting back, or where were they camping tomorrow night?   Oddly, the RV returned about 9:30 much to our surprise, but at first light it drove off again.  Understanding people is a difficult undertaking.
           So....The Desert be a fly on the wall in 1975 at the be a fly on the wall in 1990 at the Tantra workshops.....for us, we went walking in the mountains and saw butterflies and birds, and I put up our was a safer and more conservative, or so I thought.
we kept running into Nabakov's Satrys an insect named after the same Nabakov that wrote Lolita.  Have any of you ever read Lolita?   A much older man with sex with I think a twelve year old, as her step-father, yet considered one of the best novels of the 20th century.  Vladimir Nabakov--a famous Novelist, Professor, who was also a great entomologist, with four butterflies named for him....but a man promoting incest and pedophilia? 
Nabakov's Satyr

Oh was just a novel...or was it?  You know Nabakov would have stayed here if he had been a little younger...(Lolita was written 15 years before the Ashram was built) but maybe those were the times...I'm just so confused as to what actually are my times?  It seems like the cultural world ended in 2000, and maybe with 9-11 it did, but that was 18 years ago and we act like it was still yesterday.  Maybe the Baby Boomers just knew how to live. 


More butterflies and isn't that birdy down here.

Arizona Sister

Anna's Hummingbird at our feeder

Arizona metalmark

Dainty Sulphur  


  1. Replies
    1. I'm well over 100 this year lol, would be a rather crazy enterprise

  2. I knew Bill Haines. After the ashram it became a state run boys home. Losing funding and any profits from their pottery sales, they were forced to keep the grounds running by scamming the State of Arizona to let them start a home for wayward boys. I was one of those boys.
    I was very close to Bill Haines, Russell Kramer, Bali Rama and Jack and Bobbie, their nurse and maintenance man. I rode into town many times with Bill as he regaled about his adventures with Timothy Leary and when the big bust came his lawyers instructed him to have a heart attack. It was how he kept out of prison.
    There were a couple dozen kids there and a lot of child molestation was taking place with some of the counselors, which is what eventually led to its demise. The Zitco stuff came later.
    I would have been there in the mid 70s, because after I left the sanctuary, a couple of years later, I moved north in 7/7/77.


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