For a while, during the time I was living in the hole, Roland and his brothers lived in a place right next to the freeway over in Lemon Grove, the place with the big lemon by the railroad tracks. This place had to have been a migrant workers shack at one time because there was nothing to it.
I found Roland and his brothers interesting not just because they were clearly strange and thus accepting of a perpetual stranger like me but because they were all smart and had thoughts on things. True, these were strange and aberrant thoughts but they were thoughts. For example, Roland and I are talking one day sitting on the wooden floor of the migrant worker’s shack, and he says, have you ever thought about the concept of no man’s land. I said, no. He said, well think about it. So I did and concluded that it was a strange concept. Yes, he said, like a place nobody wants to live because nobody owns it. I feel like I live there some times, he concluded.
They also thought a great deal about religion, mostly Eastern religion. I sort of put up with that. When they started talking about levitation and pulled out books with pictures of people levitating I wanted to say, this is crap. Back then I was pretty cocksure. I still don’t believe people can levitate, but who knows for sure. I did get upset when they joined a cult led my some guy from India. Roland and his brothers called the guy Babu or something, and I think he was a guru named Sathya Sai Baba who had a pretty big cult and performed miracles of various sorts.
This was awful fishy to me. These guys had no money at all to speak of; they never made any effort to hold down a steady job. And here they were giving their money to this cult guy who came over from India now and then just to drum up some money as far as I could tell. One day they were talking about how much they could give because their guru—whoever the fuck this guy was– needed a new carburetor for his Lincoln. In mean at a recent gathering of the faithful, the guru had actually asked for contributions for a new carburetor because he lived over in India where the roads were dusty and he needed a special carburetor to keep it from getting jammed up.
This time I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut and asked if they had ever thought this guy was not a holy man at all but a charlatan who just wanted to take their money. They looked at me like I was stupid. Of course, they had thought about it. How many people would follow Jesus Christ, I asked, if he came down and asked for a carburetor for his Lincoln? They said Jesus Christ was not a guru. They said a guru was not about other worldly stuff. A guru could drive a car and have sex and eat fruit or whatever just like anybody else. So how the hell then did they know if he was a guru or not, except that people gave him money when he asked for it.
I had no effect on them on this guru issue. Part of having a guru seemed to involve questioning whether the guy was a guru or not and when he didn’t act like you thought a guru was supposed to act you were supposed to find some guru like message in the action and if you couldn’t find that to question whether you had the right conception of what a guru was supposed to be. They were with this guru a long time, and at one point to show their allegiance to this guru they all changed their names. Roland became Ezekiel and since he didn’t seem to have any of his usual sense of humor about this I started calling him that. He wouldn’t settle for Zeke either. It had to be the whole thing.