The Talking Monkeys: Merle (as Introduced by Ash)

I first met Merle when we were enrolled at the University of Florida. He was studying Botany and Pharmacology, and I was enrolled in the Seminary. Back then, we didn’t pay much attention to gainful employment, or even life after college. We were in the moment…back then, our dreams and speculations centered around Utopian visions. Now our visions foretell of the Apocalypse. We both had generous scholarships, and came from the kind of middle-class homes that equated a college education with financial and social success, so there was no shortage of support of any kind. We felt Invincible. Our Needs were few, and we worked at pursuits that seemed to generate as much money as we needed, but didn’t require regular hours or interfere with our studies.

I played guitar and acted as front man for a sort of loosely arranged group of musicians that used to jam together. Each of us had our own arrangements, charts, and/or recordings of previous live performances that we would use to provide some identifiable semblance of structure, that we rehearsed in different forms so, depending on who was available at any given time, we could more or less show up at a gig, and just get into it, much like the way jazz musicians perform in some clubs. In a very peculiar way, they were our “Standards”, considering that we had an audience that usually was already familiar with the same influences. I recall someone calling the scene “Art Rock”, or something like that. We could be quite pretentiously unpretentious about form, or genre, and we catered to a very indulgent, but sophisticated audience.

It was a college town, so there was no shortage of well-trained versatile musicians, or dives, garages, basement clubs or bars; empty buildings awaiting their next future failed venture, and it was not at all unusual for other musicians we knew to just show up at one of our gigs, and jump right in. Sometimes we would hop from one club or practice session to another, or even crash an out-of-town gig to surprise a “rival” band…not that there seemed to be a lot of competitiveness in what we were doing…we were just doing it. To even get paid at all was great, and we frequently used most of what we got to buy more instruments, and electronics. We rarely ever spent much money on drugs, because there was also no shortage of fans and friends only too happy to see to it that we didn’t want for recreation, companionship, or entertainment. “Who Shall Entertain the Entertainers?” Indeed.

From my point of view, any money I got somehow justified all the money I was spending just to play in the first place. I realized at an early age just how much I loved to perform. The Clergy appeared to be a way to preform for an audience that was infinitely more respectable than Rock, or even Jazz Music, and Classical was way too straight-laced to suit my Nature. My folks were scientists, and they just wanted to be sure I had something to fall back on, preferably with a Health Care Plan.

We also had this shared following/audience of roadies, self-proclaimed agents (anybody that got us a job got ten percent), groupies, friends, zealots, and the most amazing group of hangers-on that I’ve ever known…college used to be like that…an intellectual, spiritual, and sexual Mecca for persons of like mind and aspirations…which leads us to Merle.

We called him Merlin the Magician because of his legendary talents with Botany, Chemistry, and Pharmacology, which he used to provide us with just about every sort of psychedelic, hallucinogenic, psychotropic, and stimulant imaginable and make it look like an experiment. He was from Arizona, so he had great access to many plants that were sources of Sacraments to the Aboriginal and Indigenous Peoples of North America. As a mixed breed Apache, he genuinely believed he was entitled to ancestral rights in the pursuit of his religion(s), which he had actively studied and pursued since his childhood. He was the son of a Shaman, and was well on his way to becoming an accomplished one himself. As much as each tribe strives to maintain their own cultural heritages, Merle had spent many summers traveling from one reservation to another, to swap magic with other Medicine Men and Brujos, picking up Mojo from every place he went, and eventually leaving a little of his own as well. He called it cross-pollinating, as he traveled like the bee, from flower to flower.

I had spent so much time and effort studying what I came to call Theoretical Theology that I did not recognize how far I was outside of mainstream religion or anything that remotely resembled any organized religion. I saw no conflict between my pursuit of deviant forms of music, sex, art, philosophy, theology, sociology, anthropology, or my own brand of spirituality and my desire to be a holy man, even if the prospects of finding a church to hire me were effectively nonexistent. Merle maintained that we were already both holy men by virtue of our chosen paths, as well as our actions themselves. He had wisely chosen a career path that would afford him means, and respectability as long as he kept himself within certain legal guidelines. I decided that I would try to conform enough to get hired by a Unitarian Universalist church that provided me with a lot of latitude as far as Theology was concerned, at least until I met Kali.

She came to us on the heels of a very ugly, messy divorce down in Palm Beach county that could have rivaled the Pulitzer divorce, had they been wealthier or more notorious. She had been sufficiently wise to get enough Hush Money in the settlement to be comfortable for a while, but she did not demand enough money to bring her future ex-husband into sufficient temptation to consider making her disappear, of which she believed him to be quite capable.

As it was there was a bit of tongue-wagging by a few of the more vocal and self-righteous married women within the congregation before Kali arrived, but we all found her to be intelligent, thoughtful, gracious, charming…and beautiful…especially me. We were married within the year, but already the clouds of controversy were looming on the horizon like a storm at sea, and eventually that controversy led to not only my dismissal, but the revocation of my membership in the Unitarian Church as well.

During this time, Merle managed to travel and gather experience pretty much wherever he chose, doing consultant work for several pharmacological labs. Whenever he was near enough, he would stay with us in our home. I did counseling and social work when I could get it, as much for the sake of my pride, which Kali respected, despite the fact that we essentially lived off the proceeds of her money and investments, which I largely to this day cannot pretend to really comprehend or understand, but I trust her instincts, as well as her intentions.

One time when he came to us, he brought Peyote he had just gathered during his last trip out West. Sometime during that visit, we sort of jointly received what most people, including myself would call an epiphany regarding the source of the controversy leading to my dismissal. Why not build a church around the very Principle that had precipitated my unemployment? Why not indeed? What has Brought About my Downfall Shall Become my Strength. Make Controversy the building blocks to set around the Cornerstone of my Church, which shall be a spiritual mission devoted to Polyamory, and in so doing provide a loving and creative environment of nurturance and support that would effectively channel and direct the same forces that by virtue of their strength can either destroy our culture, our families…even our spirits themselves, or energize and strengthen our thinking, our actions, and our approaches without Fear, Guilt, Sin, or Jealousy by embracing both Love and Sex without reservations or restrictions. To allow and encourage all of us to realize that we possess within us the power of both God and Goddess alike…The Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

If it weren’t for Power, Death, Love and Sex there wouldn’t be any need for any Church at all….

You could say that Merle was my Wing-Man, and Kali was Our Angel.

One Response to “The Talking Monkeys: Merle (as Introduced by Ash)”

  1. […] The Talking Monkeys: Merle (as Introduced by Mark) ( […]

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