Bobby Markels: I think it's disgusting that old people are treated like worthless old dogs. But that's a heavy judgement because with racism people are actually being beaten up and killed. However, I've heard that in old peoples homes people are being beaten up and very mistreated, and this discrimination is happening much more than people realize.
Young-old people, is what I am; I just went from old-middle-age- to young-old-age -- and itŐs heavy because I'm invisible. However I've been invisible since I was fifty. But screw 'em -- when you're older you pick up a lot of wisdom but nobody wants to hear it. It's easier for older men because if they have money and seem wise they can get a 20 year old girlfriend. But an older woman is really a slug on the market. You have to be who and what you really are, but at the same time you want to be an attractive person. So a lot of old women have to succumb to the stereotype of being the nice grandma while others get facelifts. I'm much more aggressive than I used to be. I feel much more androgynous now; which people might take as my being an old bag. I've realized that I've been very much this way all my life and now that it's not a taboo I'm allowing it to be.
Also, when you get really really old you become universalized, like the rain pelting down on the rocks; it just merges you into being all the same, as the earth -- the planet. I admire my mother so because she's ninety-five and still fighting and pushing. The question is at what point do you surrender to the ravages of age? Recently she had to travel in a wheelchair and she fought it every inch of the way. I think 'why is she being so silly? So what if she's in a wheelchair? She should be happy she's still alive at all!'
But she is still an individual and, in her own mind, not at all universal. She has her own telephone number and name and she does not fucking want to get in that wheelchair! There's something very commendable and far out about that. As long as I can remember, my mother was out every afternoon of her life. And now -- she is not sick -- she is merely old. And to an old person who is not a statistic that wheelchair represents the end of that quality of their life as they know it. Then again some decisions are made for you. You can call it "life" or "fate," but you simply have no voice in the matter. She avoided using a walker until she just couldn't walk without it.
GM: Is there any way to reverse that vermicious force that turns every beautiful cheap bohemian place, like Mendocino was in the 60's, into a haven for vile yuppie scum?
BM: I would say no, unless there were no tourist industry here -- then people would lose their jobs and have to pull out. I was in Redwood Valley yesterday; it's this beautiful lovely funky little town like Mendocino used to be, there's no ocean but the country was just beautiful. There's no "country" on the coast anymore. The area between Fort Bragg and Mendocino is no longer country. It's a big piece of garbage. I don't have the knowledge of the movers and shakers but I know its been totally screwed up since 1972.
Mendocino was my muse for twenty years. I put a lot of energy into writing, thinking about, and loving it. It tied it into a microcosm for what I thought was happening in the world, as it is being slowly ruined and ripped off. I don't even use it as a muse anymore, my last book was the end of anything I had to say about this town. In fact I had the heroine looking out from her front yard looking the other way.
You can only do your own small part. I'm working with an organization called the "Mendocino Coast Children's Fund" that is dedicated to helping children who fall between the cracks. And that's my entire contribution right now to helping out the planet, because that's all I have energy for.
GM: How important was acid? Was it really an intrigal part of the 60's?
BM: I think it turned around a lot of people. I came here at 40 (I'll be 70 this year), I was like a hybrid who went into a different bin. All my friends were 24 and I think acid turned that generation around a lot, and it certainly turned me around. It made stuff clear to me that I had been groping and working for.
But it didn't enlighten everybody, plenty of people I know have taken acid and were hippies and are still total assholes, while others I know who are and were always straight are wise, intelligent, funny ...
GM: Who are these yuppies though? They haven't taken acid and you can see it in their faces -- they don't seem to be from our species.
BM: They're the people who see in the ads: come, it's a beautiful bed and breakfast place. They're people who have been to college, are working a job, they don't know anything about this area except this is a place where you're supposed to have a vacation. And they have a good time on their level, they blow a lot of cash, stay at a nice hotel, eat a lot of food, get drunk ... and I'm not saying that's wrong, I just wish they wouldn't do it in my backyard. But I've taken myself out of the Mendocino loop. It's like a dead relative. Someone you've loved a lot who's dead.
GM: Have you ever made your living as a writer?
BM: No, I've always had another job. I was on S.S.I for awhile, but I always had one of those minimal goofy jobs that people get. I never really wrote all that much. I wrote a novel in the 60's, and Saul Bellow saw it and liked it. He took it to Viking, and Viking loved it ... and it's one of those stories about first novels where everyone said: "Oh, you're so great and wonderful but could you make the heroine into a hero, and this and that. But in the end they didn't think it would sell; it was too literary, and that is the most unfortunate word you can use in publishing. I got lots of complimentary words on the writing but it really added up to 'loved the writing, hated the book' -- and it was all so, so sickening. Then I left the publishing scene, I couldn't deal with it.
Publishing myself is a joke. I'm world famous from Little River to Fort Bragg. But it's given me a very satisfying life style. I feel it has a lot of integrity, and I've written a couple of small houses to ask if they wanted my stuff. I've always gotten really nice letters from publishers telling me that I'm doing just as well putting out my own books as they could do publishing for me. I distribute here in Mendocino, people pass through and pick it up, or somebody reads something of mine somewhere and calls me to request a few books -- I'm scattered all around, but I'm just not an aggressive distributor. It was funny, for a few years I got many requests from England for my book Being Here, which is a poetic book about the 60's. My children's book How to Be a Human Bean is in its tenth printing and has sold twelve thousand copies, while my others have sold more than a thousand apiece. Which says something about publishing yourself. I may not go out to the world but the world comes to Mendocino.
GM: To what extent does Taoism and Buddhism influence your attitudes, and does your age influence your being a Buddhist?
BM: It's taught me the awareness of the connection between every one and the Tao. Life is about awareness of that connection every second and learning to just be present so you can make the right decisions and have clarity, in life situations and in daily living.
A person's age doesn't even come into it. We're all here at the same time, what difference does it make if I'm almost 70 and you're thirty or whatever. We are this generation, at this time, on earth. What possible difference can ten, twenty years, make in terms of age of this planet, the history of mankind. So chronological age in the world of spiritual matters, or intellectual and creative achievements in ridiculous. Naturally, as a rule, someone who is in the world of ideas or creativity is judged differently when he or she is older; that's understandable. But the person's validity, their authenticity, is the same regardless of age.
A lot of people think Buddhists' say 'life is suffering.' They do not say that. Buddhists say there is suffering, that's a tremendous difference. The Queen of England suffers, I suffer, you suffer, the cat suffers. So what else is new?
GM: What is your concept of God?
BM: I do not believe in the Christian/Jewish concept of God. For lack of a better way you could describe everything as the Tao: you, me, the earth, that tree, are different manifestations of that one big living breathing thing! It's different from information and knowledge, its just that it's there, it's always been there. But just because I say that doesn't mean I'm not in total awe of nature. My meditation and my study of Buddhism and Taoism is an enormous part of my life. I do feel that connection, but at the same time if you stand in your own ego in that connection you'll be driven crazy by people's bullshit and your own. So you have to transcend your ego, ha ha, and take a different stance, another stance, one that is away or separate from your ego, and just look at it all as a passing parade, a big carnival. So have your drink, take your walk, have your fun, get a good cup of coffee, sit in the park, look at the tress. Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think ....