The Doors of Perception
I remember when it happened. I was in college. It was the ’60′s and like many others I was immersed in the changing culture. The effects were extremely positive and life changing. One dramatic shift was choosing to be a vegetarian. That was over 40 years ago and previous to that change, my diet consisted of all things unhealthy from the standard American diet. Now, when I try to trace the roots of my decision to earn a living working with food, I think back to helping my little sister learn how to “cook”. This is a photo of me tasting the cake she made with her Easy Bake Oven when I was thirteen. Little did I know I would later perfect my culinary skills and own restaurants and cafés from Tennessee to California. . . p.s. Hasbro still makes their Easy Bake oven.
1974 Memory Lane
I co-owned a health food store and a small cafe in the deep South in the mid-seventies. Over 40 years later, my previous partners and friends still own it today. We catered to health conscious people and touring rock bands. I got to feed popular musicians like the Beach Boys, the Eagles and Joni Mitchell. When I sold my share in the cafe in 1975 I moved to Nashville to continue my interest in serving healthy food. But this time, it would be a full scale natural foods restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. And brunch on Sundays!
The Laughing Man in Nashville
When I first opened The Laughing Man restaurant I knew that Nashville was hungry for something new. Little did I know how hungry they really were. Only blocks away from famed Music Row East and Music Row West, it was standing room only at The Laughing Man year after year. There was always a line to get in and always a great meal to be had on the inside. Ahead of its time, the non-smoking environment coupled with fresh juices and gourmet vegetarian fair, The Laughing Man was a big hit for Nashville and its celebrities. Shel Silverstein and Chet Atkins were regulars for breakfast and many a delivery was made to the local studios for late-nite jazz musicians like Chick Corea, Larry Coryell and Dave Brubeck. Over the years, I frequently catered dinners to Nashville’s famed Exit/In, making vegetarian dishes for musicians like Jean Luc Ponty and John McLaughlin. Given his passion for the East, John particularly liked the cauliflower curry and raisin chutney. While in town recording his hit album Comes A Time, Neil Young was frequently seen at The Laughing Man drinking carrot juice between his sessions on Music Row. And some of The Laughing Man’s waitresses got to catch a few late night sessions as well. After years of serving the Nashville faithful, in 1979, I sold the restaurant and moved to California.
Fun facts from The Laughing Man Restaurant:
- Sony Bono always liked his freshly squeezed juice cut half with water.
- June Carter Cash frequently came in for breakfast with curlers in her hair.
- There were “special” herbal pancakes that weren’t on the menu.
- The most popular dish on The Laughing Man menu was steamed veggies over brown rice. The dish came with a tossed salad and a tasty sauce for the veggies and rice. To this day, whenever I meet someone who ate at The Laughing Man, they always want to know what was in that special “sauce”.
1979 – Living in the 21st century
Over the last thirty years my life has unfolded in ways I never could have imagined. I’ve been to Hawaii’s Mt. Wai-’ale-’ale, the wettest place on earth and I’ve driven across Death Valley in the Mojave Desert in a convertible in July. I got to eat dinner with close friends in the Windows on the World restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center just before 9/11 and I got to see Michael Jordan play at The Omni in Atlanta before he retired as “the greatest ever”. I met Stevie Wonder at a pay phone once in New York’s Laguardia Airport. He was wearing the most amazing pair of rattlesnake skin boots. Sadly, I forgot to tell him about the sweet potato pie I made for the Pointer Sisters. They liked it so much, they talked about it on stage! During the dot com boom, I sold websites for 7-figure start-ups and I even dated a woman that worked at Craigslist. I was in downtown San Francisco for the World Series Earthquake in 1989 and I’ve watched the sun set on the Pacific many many times from Mt Tamalpais in Marin County. I stood in line for a spot on The Apprentice once, but I lost interest in Trump’s chauvinist style and left before the interview. My father was a Frisco railroad executive but it turns out that my friend’s father was the mysterious FBI agent, Deep Throat from the Watergate scandal! Wow, that was a surprise. . . I went to see Tina Turner on her final concert tour (she was amazing!) and I got in on a photo shoot with Heidi Klum underneath the St. Louis Arch. I made a peach cobbler one summer for Al Gore and I met Mike Tyson in a video store in the Catskill mountains. I suggested a few videos and wished him luck in his upcoming Title fight for the heavy weight champion of the world. He won and didn’t need any luck at all. . . I’ve catered to VIP’s from the kitchens of The New York Palace and the Hyatt Regency on Park Ave and from inside a Winnebago traveling through California’s Sequoia National Park. I’ve taken 60lb tunas from the ocean, filleted them and made sushi for hundreds. I’ve helped butcher ceremonial cows for wedding feasts and I’ve prepared Jackfruit curry for many a South Pacific island celebration. I’ve fasted for 30 days and I’ve discovered the rejuvenating power of green drinks. Over the last few decades I’ve watched vegetarianism go mainstream and now I find myself eating a raw food diet high in fresh greens and seasonal fruit. I’ve been lucky enough to swim with some magnificent Bottle-nose dolphins in Hawaii and to spend time with some Bactrian camels at the Sacred Camel Gardens in California. . . I’ve shared my life experiences with luminaries like famed chemist Albert Hoffman, Uruguayan “Alive” survivor, Nando Parado, 5 time World’s Strongest man, Mariusz Pudzianowski and world economist, Paul Zane Pilzer. I’ve spoken with world renown geneticist Mae Wan Ho in London about genetically modified organisms and her remarkable discovery of the Rainbow and the Worm. I’ve closely followed the Institute for Responsible Technology from the beginning and I’ve taken Jeffrey Smith’s speaker training about the dangers of GMO’s and the importance of labeling food in America. . . I’ve never gotten used to the taste of kava but the Kopi Luwak I’ve been served had a “special” taste all it’s own. I’ve seen the most amazing glow in the dark mushrooms growing in the tropics and I’ve been inside Francis Ford Coppola’s private wine cellars at his vineyards in Napa. . . Most importantly, I’ve been to the sacred island of Naitauba and prostrated at the Brightness Gates, the entrance to the Mahasamadhi site of World-Friend Adi Da, my Spiritual teacher for over 35 years. In a world beset with innumerable challenges, Adi Da’s book, Not Two is Peace, is His compassionate advice for humanity and His call for a Global Cooperative Forum. I view this book as one of the most important ever written.
It’s been a long journey these past few decades and a graceful one. I’ve followed my heart and my passions. There have been a few bumps in the road along the way, but I’ve learned from my missteps and moving on is one of life’s most important lessons. Today, I call Marin County and the San Francisco Bay area home because of the open-minded culture, the abundance of fresh organic food and its varied micro-climates. Did you know that in parts of Northern California, you can pretty much find whatever weather you want within 3-4 hours of wherever you’re standing? Surf or ski. It’s amazing. And the farmer’s markets? Well, they’re unbelievable! All praise to our local farmers and the CCOF.
2010 – It’s a New Century
For more than forty years I’ve met and served food to all kinds of people. And now the Internet has leveled the playing field. Today, I have my own video production company, Webstream Studios, and given the changing world we live in, I’ve launched a digital magazine called The Blue OK, a website connecting people with information and tools that serve the human family.
The Blue OK launched on Earth Day in 2009. We feature raw foods recipes and a mash-up of information and videos about art, culture, current events and the need for a green and sustainable future. And although I can’t actually feed people online, the internet allows me to share some of the latest thoughts about food as we take a closer look at diet, the non-humans and the green domain altogether. Please check us out when you’re surfing the web and sign-up for our newsletter. Thanks.
ps. this is a comic from syndicated cartoonist Jeff Oriff. Jeff has a comic strip called, “Great Moments in Rock n Roll.” I’ve had a few of those moments and this strip shares one of my favorites. Jeff’s caricatures are quite good and it happened just like he drew it. . . Thanks Jeff, “I’m not worthy”.