Thursday, May 5, 2011

Journey of Awakening – 30: Re-engagement

Although San Francisco was a great place to be, 1975 had been a tough year on the family. During the year my first marriage was officially ended in divorce. I had tried to keep in touch with Leslea and Robb by letter and occasional photos. But my emotional life was pretty much a mess and I spent a good deal of time insulating myself from feelings. I could hide in my day-to-day obligations. Still, the deep reflection on just how much my self-image was bound up in being significant, being some-body, had not yet begun.

Linda Tuecke, now divorced from Dan and having spent a year in Chicago at the ICA international center, was transferred to Los Angeles for 1975-6 assignment year with her two sons, Troy and Eric, both in elementary school. We began communicating during the year about our future and requested permission to marry. While awaiting the decision of the Panchayat (the designated spiritual leadership group of the Order: Ecumenical) I was put in charge of the newly formed Town Meeting California team.


The ICA had received a $50,000 grant from Bank of America Foundation to organize and conduct 200 forums in communities across the state. The initial phase of the campaign involved sending individuals out to spend eight weeks training local community workshop leaders in selected towns and neighborhoods, culminating in an all-day forum to identify community issues and challenges, formulate proposals, write a story, create a symbol and song to celebrate the history and hopes of the community, and present a document at the end of the day that citizens could take action on to implement their proposals.


I worked with the towns of Napa and Marin City (a demonstration integrated town in Marin County, north of San Francisco). These both drew several hundred residents. We also held a forum in the Mission District, our own neighborhood, at which more than 200 residents showed up. The Mission was fast transitioning to a Hispanic neighborhood, which meant that we had to produce materials in Spanish and recruit and train bi-lingual workshop leaders.

I was also sent to form teams in Sacramento, the San Joaquin Valley and Los Angeles, which were to go out and visit communities in hopes that we could reach the goal of 200 Town Meetings by the end of the year. We had endorsement letters from politicians from “Governor Moonbeam” on down, from service organizations, religious leaders, the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Jaycees, as well as from mayors of the towns which had held the first of the Town Meetings. We thought we would be welcomed with open arms, but encountered the entire spectrum of resistance from the established leaders passive “we don’t really have any big issues” to “Who exactly are you and why are you here?” to “We need to keep commie organizations like you out of our town.” None of the open hostility and accompanying publicity ever stuck. But things were still not going fast enough to reach the magic 200.

In the early spring of 1976 permission was finally granted by the Order for Linda and me to marry. Linda was assigned out to work and was in an office manager job in LA. On weekends she joined the Town Meeting campaign focused on neighborhoods. Two of the largest of these were in Pico Union, the neighborhood adjoining the LA House, and Huntington Park, which Linda coordinated. The school year was winding down and we were planning a June wedding while trying to keep up the momentum of the Town Meeting campaign.

It was a whirlwind spring. It would be good to pause for a lively wedding celebration and glorious honeymoon.

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