By Doug Bernard
On July 6th, the culmination of two months of preparations by a mid-western program staff occurred as Guru Maharaj Ji addressed 2,400 premies in the huge Indiana Convention Center complex in Indianapolis, Indiana. Attending premies were treated to a reception in the gigantic lobby, an afternoon program of satsang, a dinner served in the adjacent dining room, and the simple evening program format used in each city on the tour. The evening program had a new twist this time, however, as Lou Schwartz extended his efforts to involve the entire audience by inviting five premies up onto the stage to share with everyone gathered in the convention center.
Guru Maharaj Ji gave a powerful address stressing confidence in the manifesting promise of Knowledge. This was followed by a very gracious and orderly darshan and Arti. As premies exited in the night beneath a reddish half moon to return to homes in the midwestern U.S. and Canada, one felt a family unified by the day's experiences, parting to resume the unfolding of their lives until the next regional gathering. Our reporter, Doug Bernard, attended the program and what follows are sketches from his notebook.
The Lay of the Land
I am sorry that I did not pay more attention in grade school when we were studying the lay of our land. Today is the 200th birthday of the republic and I am having the opportunity to fly quietly over the countryside which George Washington claimed, "has every natural attribute fit to render it a paradise, if we will but keep it in good faith." I remember that Montgomery is the capitol of Alabama, and that something called the Piedmont is sandy, but the names of crops and rivers, and even states escape me as I fly "up" to Atlanta from Gainesville and then on across the checkboard which hung on so many schoolroom walls, now stretched out flat thirty thousand feet below. I wonder what the Americans in the townships downstairs are doing this Sunday. Lacking Great Walls or Maginot lines, the "states" are truly united from thirty thousand feet up. It is evidently just one country down there and the pilot never bothers to announce our theoretical passage from one state to another - the scene below my window fails to show the borders so scrupulously provided by a grade school map. It is in a sort of bi-centennial melancholy that I float down into America's breadbasket, the midwest, for the Indianapolis program on Guru Maharaj Ji's Summer Tour.
5:30 PM - No Go at Ho Jo's
Howard Johnson has lost me in amongst the customary confusion which surrounds hotel registrations in towns bursting with premies. Happily, the first person I meet is the man who can straighten it all out - mild-mannered organizational quarterback of the Indy program, Dennis Marciniak, often in the right place at the right time (or coming from the right place most of the time). Dennis never seems to draw the scores of frantic questions which customarily plague program coordinators. He gets smiles, J.S.C.A's, an occasional hug, and very occasionally a polite question from staff members, who suddenly appear and then disappear with a mysterious lack of fanfare. With Dennis standing right out in the lobby for God's sake, of Howard Johnson's, with virtually nobody calling his name and with seemingly nowhere very important to go other than dinner, I begin to worry about the program. "Is it together"" I ask Dennis. "Well, I've been wondering the same thing myself," he replies. "It seems like everything has been done or is in the process of getting done. It seems pretty well under control." That being the case, we do the only sensible thing under the circumstances - head out in search of a Chinese or Italian alternative to the old standby (grilled cheese and french fries).
7:00 PM - I Spare You the Details
You have just missed a very boring meeting with Dennis Marciniak (program coordinator), Mickey Cottrell (red headed Shakespearean program coodrinator), Sharon Stokke (program coordinator from Big Apple and Windy City), Ross Mickey (NAO rap, I mean rep, currently on the road), Lou Schwartz (Bob Barker of the Summer Tour), and a budding photo-journalist from the Divine Times. In the meeting (the detailed coverage of which I have spared you), it is decided to pursue a program in which more premies can participate. (Little do Al and Harriet Moore know what is being cooked up for them.)
9:00 PM - The Cheesecake Coverage
Lou Schwartz has just finished giving his analysis of Senator Frank Church's vice-presidential chances and goes on to reveal that a certain Janet Maggio of Chicago has made a great deal of her famous cheesecake and has invited anyone interested in that sort of thing up to have some. Of course, I have to follow along to cover the story. For those of you unfamiliar with programming, it is very unusual for a program staff to be relaxed enough to do any of the above mentioned activities on the night before the program.
The Day of the Program
A Knock on the Door
It is the morning of the program and Tim and Zack Frieje have just arrived at my door. Tim is my "local correspondent" on this case and Zack is riding on his back in a little day pack. We head over to the convention center to "get the story."
In the Starship Enterprise
I am having my macrobiotic breakfast (a Pepsi Cola) upstairs in the Starship Enterprise (the Indiana Convention Center ) looking out a window at several skyscrapers of downtown Indy, and the ever-present midwestern sky hosting an occasional passing frisbee.
In the background WXTZ, the local muzak station, plays what it considers ecstatic music, while I attempt to make a point about the midwest - that it is so mellow, people don't need to form communities very fast. "I don't know that that's the case," says Tim. "We've got 122 people in this area who have been initiated, and probably 35 who get together on a fairly regular basis and are in AMP. But, I think we are just beginning to see a need to go beyond our limited criteria for involving each other in community … there is a new trend toward seeing people as human beings rather than as AMP members, spacy premies, group W premies . What are Group W premies? Tim reminds me of the Arlo Guthrie story of Alice's Restaurant in which Arlo is assigned to a Group W bench at the army induction center. Like "hoods" in my high school, W's tend to do things outside of certain accepted norms (like smoke cigarettes outside the satsang hall, go out for a beer after Arti, question a lot) and like hoods, they often provoke needed change.
That Afternoon - Boogie On the Dinner Line
That afternoon in Indy was one of those long family reunions that premies enjoy. It was hug city. And later, if the dinner line wasn't moving ahead, at least it moved from side to side as Tony, Keith, Bob, Jimmy, and maybe a few others I
missed from Cincinnati, and Moshe (from Chicago) provided some extraordinary drumming in the lobby. It was black and very beautiful.
The Sky and Pearl Books
You may be wondering what I am writing down while walking around the childcare room. It is simply the great names that appear on the little tape labels affixed to each child. What a treat it is for me who grew up in a world of Johns, Bobs, Arms, and Cindys (no offense to Johns, Bobs, Arms, and Cindys) to know that the up and coming generation will include so many Shawns, Jasons, Graces, and Rebeccas. It is a mark of my age that my archetypical brother and sister were called Dick and Jane, or (for ERA advocates) Alice and Jerry. Perhaps the group assembled in this childcare room will one day read "Sky and Pearl" or "Angela and Woods" books, for in there I found (neatly labeled) Sky Petty, Angela Quigby, Woods Glidden, and Pearl Prisco. There was Shanti! Oram (two years old), Ian Hulbert (6½), and Uriah Daily (3). Rafe Sackett made a drawing for Guru Maharaj Ji which I saw later on the dedication table (as did the children of Premie Lane - a two block double dead-end street in Indy which harbors eleven premie households now). I found one four-year-old labeled Superman, who turned out to be Jeremy Bowman (4) on his flip side, and an empty stroller labeled Nathan Spaeth. Paul Welch must have been in there somewhere, for later on a convention center employee announced, "Will the parents of Paul Welch please go to the childcare area, and claim your Paul Welch?"
Nineteen Thousand Nervous Breakdowns, or Today's Soapbox Subject - Childcare
Childcare collapsed in one way or another at both of the programs I was at, with Guru Maharaj Ji commenting on it after his satsang in Gainesville and during his satsang in Indy. Nelson of Gainesville told us in Indy (he had come to the Indy program after missing the program in his hometown by doing childcare), "It seems like every year there are more children at the programs, but it's just something we haven't dealt with." The same point was echoed by Margaret Frieje (Tim's wife) coordinator of childcare in Indy. "It just seemed to be a low priority in the program organization. It took so long to appoint someone to do it, where normally people plan way ahead of time." Having experienced the usual chaos which occurs when children of all ages are confined in a single room (and prevented from going out the door) in several programs (Amherst Guru Puja, Portland Guru Puja, and Indy), I wondered aloud why she didn't get partitions and/or more rooms. "There wasn't enough money," Margaret said. I pointed out that at ten dollars a head for two thousand people attending, there certainly was enough money. "I guess it's just a matter of experience and consciousness of priorities. In meetings before, when the partitions were turned down, we didn't think to protest. People just said, 'I don't think the children will be wild.' " Practical experience proved the contrary, and Margaret and I decided to include a word on this in Divine Times to promote better luck next time.
All Over So Soon
I am standing in the lobby of the Holiday Inn thinking about the events of the past day and a half. It was very simple. I spent some time with a program staff, mellower, more relaxed, and on top of the situation than I've seen in any previous festival. We had the time to enjoy each other. I've been with a couple thousand more premies also taking the time to enjoy each other. I talked for a long time with a black brother from Cincinnati named
Tyrone, about cameras. I fell in love with the Frieje family in about six hours. I somehow got a bi-centennial appreciation of the land we are graced to live in. I heard Guru Maharaj Ji give an imminently sensible satsang, and I received darshan.
I wish I could write it all, but I'm out of room without even starting to express the power of little things that happened to me. I suppose that's the grace - all the little things that happen in the lives with Knowledge. Now I have to go. The disco in the next room is playing, "Get up and boogie …"