Marty Glass
(Harry Woods Pal)


"Marty Glass," His Biography, Written by Himself in His 0wn Hand

"Marty Glass" was born, so he was subsequently informed, on January 27th, 1938, in New York City, the Big Apple. He was raised and educated there, moved with vague but eager anticipation to the Bay Area in l965, and in 1983, fallen among back-to-the-lander hippies, moved 200 miles north to Humboldt County where he presently lives with his wife in an owner-built home two miles up a dirt road beyond the power and water lines. He has five children he loves with all his heart who tease him with fearless and familiar skill and to his great delight, the oldest of whom was born in l964 and the youngest in 1979: a boy, three girls, a boy again, all competent, level-headed and earning money. Raising children turned out to be the major occupation and dedication of his earthly life.

In his present dispensation he is at home with his table saw, his rather imperfectly adjusted radial arm saw, his skilsaw, his socket wrenches, his router, his pump mix, his chainsaws (Stihl, soon to acquire a Husquevarna) and of course his brand-new 14.5 volt cordless drill. Three years ago, in 1998, he stopped swinging a splitting maul and went in on a hydraulic splitter with his equally weakening neighbors on the hill; he had been warned -perhaps facetiously but he was never certain- that "many a man has been found dead with a splitting maul in his hands." The house is heated mainly with madrone and oak, sometimes fir, occasionally bay which was very hard to split until the hydraulic was purchased. He tinkers with and does his best to maintain two generators, a pump, a weed-whacker and a large DR mower. He hauls firewood and building materials and drives to the dump in a l965 Ford half-ton pickup named Old Brown and drives a 1988 Volvo to town and work. He likes to sit by the woodstove and stare thoughtfully at the embers and compulsively counts the caws of the California ravens to see if he can discern a pattern. He never watches television, hasn't owned one in thirty years, and doesn't do e-mail. He eats two poached eggs for breakfast, 730 eggs a year. 

"Marty" has been a college teacher of English in New York and Oakland, always an hourly worker, a missile fabricator in San Leandro, a warehouseman, a packer in a printing plant, helped prevent and mop up oil spills in the Bay, occasionally pulling boom underneath the pier at 2 AM where giant wharf rats were rumored to be waiting to pounce, worked nine years as a janitor with the Oakland Public Schools where he edited the union newsletter called The Clean Sweep, and for the past fifteen years has been an Instructional Assistant in the local elementary school, twelve years in the second grade and three years in the sixth. He regards the presence of children and his great love for them to be essential to the balance of his life, has seen hundreds pass through his classroom, and brushes away a vagrant tear every year when the whole lunchroom sings Happy Birthday to him.

"Marty' is a jazz piano player, playing at parties and various gatherings with his good friend, Bill, a bass player, and available singers. During "Music Weekend," always in August, old friends drive up from the Bay Area, or fly in from Atlanta or Wales, pitch their tents in the meadow, and sing, play instruments, and enter the annual Horseshoe Tournament where Marty has usually added a fresh 6oo pounds of sand to the pitch and reinforced the backstop. "Marty" plays horseshoes poorly but with great style and verve; he has, to his genuine but unwarranted surprise, never won the trophy. He enjoys playing a two-handed card game called California Jack (trickier than Casino or Cribbage) with his wife, a much better player; occasionally he wins, but only through luck. (His present marriage is his second. He's been there.) He also plays Tarot, a four-handed French card game much harder than California Jack, with his neighbors; he appears to be getting worse rather than better at this game, probably due to age - can't remember what's void in what suit, how many trumps have been played, who's trumping what - but he enjoys it as much as ever.

For the past thirty years or so, while all this has been going on, "Marty" has been a deadly serious practitioner of the religion of India. His spiritual practice is his real life, as, in his confirmed opinion and in the Great Concensus we ignore or doubt to our eternal peril, Spirit is the only Reality. Before the children finally moved on and the mornings quieted down he rose at 5 AM, trudged on icy ground or in pouring rain, by flashlight, down to the ancient rickety chicken coop in which be built a shrine area and which is amusedly referred to as "Marty's Cell," as the old precarious outhouse nearby is with similar amusement referred to as the "monk's dump.' There he meditates. (Once someone phoned during early evening meditation, and his young son, upon being asked where his father was, replied "in his cell," The caller never mentioned it.) In the winter months, after visiting the outhouse - he is regular - he washed in ice water, if the water wasn't entirely ice, and wore a "muff" made from sweater sleeves in which he thrust his hands to keep them warm enough to manipulate the beads of his mala. There, by candlelight, he experienced fairly invariable bliss. "Marty" feels his meditation was rewarded; but, skillfully evasive, aware of the danger and mindful of the necessary respect, he never explains in what the reward consists. When asked, a rare event, he replies, with mingled mock belligerence and polite forbearance, that the answer can be found, more clearly than he could expound it and with an authority some have contrived to respect, in the sacred texts whose name, translator and publisher he cheerfully supplies. His practice continues to be as central and intense as it ever was - although he knows full well that "a Path there is, but no one who treads it: Nirvana there is, but no one who attains it." He is, as we all are, a figure of speech. But with very real responsibilities.

"Marty" always thought of himself as a guy who could write good. He won the Columbia University Poetry Prize, where he earned his LA. in English, two years running. He has spent a very great amount of time, throughout his life, reading and compiling a world class bibliography, studying English Prose as it was engaged by the Masters: J. Conrad on the semicolon and the adverb, H. James on the long sentence, J. Joyce on pushing the limits, W. Faulkner on letting loose, and so on. He is a "veteran of the sixties" - wasn't that a times where "it was borne in upon him with a force of demonstration no prejudice could resist nor sophistry dissemble" (Sir J.G. Frazer) that Lenin, and very very many others of widely varying stature and intelligence, were gravely misinformed in their indestructible conviction that "the revolution is the truth." He learned, from direct experience, that there were no workers: only people. Undismayed by veiled accusations of petit-bourgeois individualism, with humble gratitude that he had somehow been enabled to penetrate the rhetoric, with malice toward none and charity for all, he left the organization and pursued a Truth he had no doubt existed somewhere, passing rapidly through a vague "humanism" to a spiritual exploration culminating in a moment on a sunny afternoon in the back yard of his rented apartment in Oakland when he looked up from the Upanishads, said to himself something like "This is clearly and with no possibility of doubt the Truth," and calmly continued reading, the search ended once and for all, his life forever changed. Over the years, the decades, he claims, Knowledge only gets deeper, at the same tine as, paradoxically, the Infinite and Eternal is encountered and entered repeatedly, the bliss of the Self and the love of Krishna experienced whenever receptivity is given and rewarded by Grace.

But all along "Marty" remembered the sixties! Democracy, the oppressed and deceived, the people! The enormous bibliography he was accumulating, both sacred and secular, the inspired commentaries and the cultural studies, imposed a responsibility to pass on what he had received to those without the inclination or determination to duplicate such an effort. It takes all sorts. Having cultivated a determined apprenticeship to English Prose - "one who has been visited by the muse is haunted ever after," as Eliot remarked somewhere - his task appeared clear and inescapable. His first book, "The Sandstone Papers", was published in 1986 by Threshold Books, "Eastern Light in Western Eyes" was completed in 1990, and in l994 "YUGA: An Anatomy of our Fate," in which his goal and. hope, among other intentions, was to carry the traditionalist legacy, sufficiently inaccessible to nearly everyone in the world, tainted - perhaps necessarily, in the nature of things, as an initial salvo - by a punitive and elitist hauteur, to its wider, more down-to-earth implications, and to a wider, more down-to-earth audience. "Marty" is a very down-to-earth regular kind of guy. His speech is peppered with pungencies of the vernacular; he is frequently accused, in his humorous commentary, of "always going too far." He has no intention of ever writing again, for the simple and sufficient reason that he has nothing left to say. His work is done. 

Throughout these years "Marty" kept his spiritual practice and his writer's calling deep in the background of his 1ife. He knew this was the right way. His devotion was to his family and his friends, they came first, to most of whom his religious practice was irrelevant if known at all and his writing some sort of private fantasy for which he made no claims untinged with irony. From the typewriter to the piano keyboard, from the exhausted bleary appraisal of the text, the resigned confession that this has to be the final draft, no point in wrestling with it anymore, can't make it any better, to the delightful elusive mysteries of the chord changes and the improvised line and the simple joy of the 12-bar blues and a glorious day of barbecue and wine at the San Francisco Blues Festival. Wine and song with his friends and family, lugging sacks of steer manure in the vineyard, struggling doggedly in the classroom to make clear the connections between fractions, decimals and percents. He would like to have published under a pen name but was discouraged, probably rightly.

And all of this, of course, his life and the world in which it is lived, and your life and your world, may we some day know to be a divine Dream, the Dream we love, the unsurpassable Dream, manifestation, according to the famous hadith, of the "hidden treasure" who "wanted to be known," and created to that end alone the world we love.


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