It gave me an ironclad excuse to miss community meetings. I was maitre d' in a Moroccan restaurant in Boulder for ten years. Working there I discovered a gift for service I never knew I had. Serving made me come alive in a way I'd never been before. Religious notions about service to god seemed ridiculous to me. If there is a god it can serve itself. God don't need service, people do. I didn't know it at the time but my wisdom had put me in the right place at the right time to get that job so I could develop a side of me that needed developing. Service is an act of love. My love life was dreadful. I'd had lots of girlfriends, lots of sex, and done almost no loving. I'd been an asshole to my girlfriends. I just missed becoming an asshole for life in Tallahassee; moving out to Boulder saved my ass for better uses. Besides an opportunity to study service, my job at The Fez had another sweet gift for me.
I should back up here. I moved from Tallahassee to Boulder in 1979 to study holistic healing. That was going to be my new career, a holistic healer, and I was psyched. I came to study with TH, who taught Harmonizing, an integrated, customizable healing system. He had promoed it at our healing arts fair in Tallahassee. I was enthusiastic about becoming a practitioner.
One of the key ways I never fit in. That was the story, and that's how it went at first. I joined the practitioner group and set to work, studying hard to catch up. I was most behind on muscle testing, so I got private lessons from Doña, a practitioner. I promptly fell in love with her, which was a no-no.
TH wanted me for other uses. Meanwhile, several Self-Harmonizing groups got started, people getting Harmonized by TH or one of the other practitioners. While I lived in Boulder, these groups became into a community, which became into a cult of running, TH's core interest. I was a frog in the gradually warming water around a charismatic leader, and I didn't have any potential as a runner.
God how I dreaded the hot seat. Besides running, the key element in TH's cult was toasting circles. Sounds so innocuous. Toasting circles were brutal, designed to crush resistance. One person sat in the hot seat and toasted with bourbon; the rest of us toasted back with beer. Maybe it worked for other people. All I ever got was discomfort, anxiety, brutality, and booze. I liked the booze part; coulda used more. I abhorred the meetings and was keen to avoid them. Besides severe illness, having to work was your only get-outta-jail-free card.
OK, back to my beloved Mataam Fez. It was one of those right place/right time moments. I knew the current maitre d' and he hired me on sight. He graduated from CU a couple months later. When he took off, I took his place. The Fez was founded in Denver; Boulder was one of 3 outposts. All locations are now closed, but the Denver website survives, with the menu. All the same dishes. It was special occasion restaurant. No a la carte, just a five-course Moroccan feast: lamb-lentil soup, salads, b'stella, entrees (big emphasis on lamb), tea & dessert. There were OK veg options, but it was more fun to be a carnivore. To me it seemed astronomically expensive.
I adored serving. Diners sat or lounged on cushions on the floor, at low tables. You ate with your fingers, no utensils. I knelt at each table once folks settled in. I told them how their feast would unfold, answered their questions, and encouraged them to order a variety of entrees and share. I loved the intimate feeling of kneeling at each table to connect with the guests. I got to be playful and generous, the magic genie who made everything work just right. I did everything I could to make them feel welcome. That was my role all through the feast. I came back to join them on my knees many times during their stay with us. I loved every minute of it.
First we brought out towels and a tass, a silver basin and pitcher, and poured warm water scented with sliced lemon for guests to wash their hands. People loved that, and always needed to be cautioned to point their hands down into the basin as I poured, so as not to create a waterway headed straight for their lap. You got to keep your towel as a giant napkin. Right before tea there was another round of handwashing. Then we served tea in an showy Moroccan tea-pouring ceremony.
Poly challenged. On weekends there was often a belly dance show. It would be a fun plot development to have me fall in love with a belly dancer there, but I had already done that a year or two before I came to work at The Fez. One of the belly dancers was Doña, the woman who taught me Touch for Health. She was my girlfriend. Monogamous relationships weren't allowed in The Community, but sexuality was encouraged; I just didn't fit in with that, vanilla guy that I was. She and I lived together in a little house a few blocks from The Fez. She had already left The Community, and I was half-in half-out.
It was a godsend, that job. One of my maitre d' duties was to make the wait staff schedule every week. I always worked the busiest shifts, Friday & Saturday nights, when most of the community meetings happened. I scheduled myself as I liked, and kept an ear out for upcoming meetings. Blessed psychological relief, blessed protection from brutality.
The genius of Salida. Doña & I broke up and I moved to Salida, Colorado with 4 other writers. We were there to transcribe TH's teachings and prepare them for publication. I loved my eight months in Salida. For the first time, I connected with the magic in the world around me, the genius of my particular spot. This was a blossoming of all the times I'd sneak away to be by myself in the woods, talking to the fairies. The elevation in Salida is a little over 7,000 ft, which is strikingly different than Boulder's little over a mile. The majestic fourteener peaks of the Sawatch felt like they were in my back yard, particularly Mt. Antero, and Mt. Shavano with its snow angel. I regularly went running on those mountains (not to the top).
I sure did better work with the chainsaw than I did with my daddy's .30-06. As part of my get manly program, I bought a 16-inch Stihl chainsaw and fell in love with it. Chainsaws, like motorcycles and firearms, simply reek of danger. I wielded my Stihl among the slash. Slash is what loggers leave behind: the branches cut off some forest titan so its naked trunk will fit on a timber hauler. Chainsawing firewood out of slash piles is ludicrously dangerous. You're standing on the stuff you're cutting and there are obstacles everywhere just waiting to catch the tip of your saw. I relished all that, and came away injury free. My best manly moment.
The Vic. I missed out on most of the weekend stuff in Salida because I was commuting to Boulder, but I did get in on a few weekend outings. The most memorable was going into Salida's downtown on a Saturday night to raise hell down at The Vic: The Victoria Saloon. We all had shots & beers before heading out, and I was rarin' to go before everyone else, so I left a little early with I forget who, and the other 3 to follow soon. The Vic had a country blues band just kicking it up, so we got out on the floor to shake our booties individually; this was long before my partner dance days.
There were a couple of cute girls who were there together that I was eying, and one of them started eying me back. We started dancing together that way you do, dancing with someone without touching. When the band took a break I worked up my nerve and went and chatted with them. They were from Bueny, as it was called, Buena Vista, the next town up valley. The band came back on, and now I was definitely dancing with that one girl. It was the last set, so the band earned its keep by settling into a series of buckle polishers: bluesy country songs for slow dancing. She & I were suddenly partner dancers.
A vertical expression of a horizontal urge. That's what Oscar Wilde called dance, and so it was between the two of us. We started making out on the dance floor. The band was done but we weren't, so we both let our parties know they better find their own rides home. We wandered out into the city park across the street. It was the middle of summer and quite breezy; some kinda weather was kicking up. We didn't care. There was a big old tree with a wooden bench kinda built onto it, right up next to the trunk, and we sat there making out. It started to rain, and then the magic happened. The rain got heavy, but not a drop on us; we were in a tiny dry zone right at the base of this tree. And then the heavens opened up, and we got the kind of rain you only get mid-continent: so heavy that we could not see anything in any direction but a gray wall of rain.
Nature had provided us with a private room and we did not disappoint her; we made love right there under that tree, and it was fabulous; tender, sweet, and unbelievably hot. By the time the rain let up, we were both clothed and still kissing. There was a moment of awkwardness when we said good night, but we were both wise enough to let this perfect moment be; we didn't exchange phone numbers, just wished each other well. The sweetness of that hot encounter lingered long. I can still taste a whiff of it as I write this.
Our resident expert considered Windows a waste of disc space. We did word processing in a room with a window facing north over an abandoned apple orchard. The combination of a second story picture window plus computer screens brought to mind the Starship Enterprise, so that room was The Bridge. I loved working up there, mostly keying in TH's raps from hard copy. The work we did in Salida was my introduction to computers. We used MS Word 2, which was outrageously expensive. My first computer was a DOS machine, even though Windows 3 was around by then. It had a 4MB hard drive. It only took a few minutes to boot up, tho' it did require regular hard restarts when it froze up.
The fury of South Park. I still had my job at the Fez, one foot on the ground outside the cult. I drove into Boulder to work weekends, several hours of white-knuckle driving on icy roads, especially across South Park, a severely beautiful grassland that winter winds whipped across in a fury, pushing me & my little Civic all over the place. On ice.
I often sought out BLM land when I was planning my outdoor adventures. Those white-knuckle drives weren't my first adventures in South Park; I'd been drawn to the area for years. There was an area on the south side of US 285 that called to me; I don't know why. I decided to go exploring. It wasn't in the San Isabel National Forest; I'm pretty sure it was BLM land. That's for Bureau of Land Management, an acronym well known to outdoorsey types. Regulations are looser on BLM land v. National Forests and Parks. You're generally free to camp, hunt, fish, off-road, etc.
We ate those in my family. I went to South Park a number of times to pursue manly pursuits. I took a hand line and some flies for fishing, and one time I packed in a .410 my dad had shipped to me. He used it for hunting doves & squirrels when I was a boy. Not a lotta meat there in either case, but the doves were tasty. Squirrels aren't worth the effort; I decided to stick with trout. When you're out camping, nothing in the world tastes better than a fresh fried trout you just caught. Squirrels be damned. Or rather not: you go squirrel, play and be cute. Ima eat this trout.
He died of a bad Southern lifestyle, done in by alcohol and fat. I held a spontaneous memorial service for my brother in South Park. I'd been scrambling on rocks above my camp, another way to test my manly mettle; this was before my idiotic march and big fall. As I was resting I saw a quartz crystal on the ground. In a few minutes I had a double handful. Tim was the consummate collector. I heard tales of how his incredible collection, with many museum-quality pieces, all got sold on the cheap for cases of beer by his alcoholic son-in-law. I decided I wasn't gonna be a collector; I didn't see any good in it. I admired my double handful of shiny quartz a moment more, then flung it out across the hillside, and walked away happier.
My ten years working at Mataam Fez affected me very deeply. It was an extraordinary gift in so many ways. People came there to celebrate, not just eat, and we were brujos and brujas invoking ancient Moroccan arts of celebration. I came to The Fez without a clue how to love, how to be good to my lover. I started learning how from the first night I worked at The Fez. That job required kindness, generosity, affability, good humor, gentle submission to my guests without losing myself in the process. It drew those qualities out of me and I became a better lover for it. I learned how to treat my sweetheart right by learning how to treat my guests.