Introduction

carny copy

About this book.

This is my first book. I’ve written many business plans, advertising copy and faithfully kept a journal for a long time, I’ve never tried my hand at a book. It’s been developed as a part time endeavor over the last several years. It is said that, “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.” I serendipitously stumbled upon a person and a true story, taken from his early life, that captured my interest and channeled my creative yearnings. Life gives us those gifts when we need them.

What first motivated me to write this book?

Creating a book is a daunting task. It’s a lot of hard work and hundreds of hours with no guarantee of being published or even finding interested readers. So why do it? Perhaps the simplest answer is that I needed to write it. The long way around the question is to say that perhaps I was looking for some type of personal understanding or redemption. Some way to find healing or at least a reason for things, especially experiences that hurt me. Making sense of pain and tragedy.

Personal loss of a business and career.

After years struggling to build a business, it finally prospered and began fulfill many of my dreams that had developed for two decades. We were millionaires, had two houses. One we gave freely to a missionary couple. We gave over a million dollars to charities. Started a homeless organization. I served on 7 boards. Had two beautiful kids. Had been on T.V., in magazines, gave seminars, anon. Anyway, right when things were really groovy, it all fell apart. I pretty much lost it all. Kept our family together through concentrated effort, but lost all else… all our dreams. But that’s another story, this isn’t an autobiography.

Making a new start.

Anyway, after a couple years of floundering… trying this and that, I was just starting to get my feet underneath me. I began to have some vision, some enthusiasm for work again. My interests and the necessity to earn a living for a family of six converged as I became a producer and seller of educational products. I could operate the business out of my home, which I enjoyed much.

In the wake of the failed business, my wife and I had often considered relocating for several reasons; better place to raise our 4 children, lower cost of living, a friendlier, less stressful culture. My wife, being a Mid-western country girl at heart had always hated L.A. for the 14 years we had been there. She never quite found her place. She always longed for a “simpler” life. In one of those enlightened moments of clarity, I offered her the option of picking anywhere in the U.S. she would like to move to. She picked Franklin, Tennessee.

A fateful meeting

In my journeys around the little town of Franklin, I met a man with a little toy store. It was kind of a run down place. I was just looking for a gift for my little girl who was just turning 7. Anyway, in the process of my search, he engaged me in a lengthy conversation. We ended up talking for over two hours. There were never very many customers. I don’t know how he supported himself. I frequently returned to his store. He shared with me the events that painted his colorful life story. I admit, at times, he waxed a little verbose. However, when I showed signs of boredom or lack of interest, he would promptly quit.

The Mystery of Divine destiny

I was drawn irresistibly into to his drama. I sensed there was something of my life trapped in his story, maybe hidden between the lines. I HAD to find out what it was. I was caught by some type of magnetism or compulsion. I’m not sure why. Probably comes from the same dark places all our urges originate. What makes us choose the friends, or read the books, or do the things we do? I have learned to believe in something… Force, God, Universe, Destiny… and that we are not ultimately in control. At any rate, all I can say, hopefully without sounding too crazy, is that I felt “led” to write a book about his life.

An important page in history.

Over the next couple of months, it became my mission or vision, to me to chronicle one particular segment of his life… during the period from 1969 to 1970. It was an eventful time in the history of the United States, and indeed of the world. Nixon, Vietnam War, My Lai massacre, Anti-war demonstrations, Ohio State shootings. The rise and fall of the “golden era” Hippie-dom; starting with WoodStock ending with Alamount. Crosby, Stills and Nash. Beatles break up. Moon Landing, Manson murders. Black panthers, bell bottoms, streaking. Hyper inflation, Stocks soar and fall, Skyrocketing costs, decline of the American farm. , Inner city Riots, drugs, Timothy Leary, Peter Max. New consciousness emerging over issues of population, pollution, racism, chemical warfare, nuclear threat, global interdependency.

I was rather young and missed out on the import of many of these events. I have always been interested in the culture of the period and it’s turbulent times. It feels like then and now I am always racing to catch-up. Retrace my steps.

The little man in the Toy Store

Anyway, I talked much with the toy store owner. Our relationship grew. We began to feel more comfortable around each other. I looked forward to our meetings. My first impression of him as stand-off-ish, angry and withdrawn melted away as I got to know him. Although there remained a permeating sense of melancholy or fatalism.

By the way, his name is Lawrence Botomier Feinstein. Which seemed odd since he was obviously oriental. Lawrence, or “Lobo”, as he used to be called, but not for over a decade, was in his mid 60’s… Rather short, wiry, thinning black hair. I spent many hours interviewing him. Interestingly enough he also served on the board for a teen center and worked in a prison ministry. But that will make more sense, once you know his story.

At first he was resistant to the idea of me writing a book about his life. He eventually agreed, especially since the period of his life I chose to depict was over 25 years ago.

Background Research

I was able to track down many of the characters he mentioned. Some were quite helpful, while a few were resistant, even antagonistic. I also conducted research on the events and issues of the period. When I felt pertinent to the understanding of the story or context, I added footnotes.

I also interviewed many Carnival folk. Reminiscent of the legendary Gypsies, A nostalgic reflection of Americana. I want to thank Hi-Time Carnivals for letting me travel with them for a week during the summer of 1997. I found them perhaps some of the most interesting and hospitable people I’ve ever encountered. I thank them for letting me into their hearts… their simple trust and transparency.

I found the era and the context of special interest to me although I’ve never been much of a Carnival fan before. The “unrealness” and bright colored facades reflect something of an era gone by. Although now that’s hard to get a handle on. History is like that, we keep on reinterpreting it in each generation. It becomes abstract and changes meaning and color over time. Colors fade… Woodstock, 25 years after.

The aim and intent of the book

I don’t purport to be the best, most talented writer. But I have tried to investigate the truth and report it as accurately as possible, hopefully without too much editorializing. It has always been my premise that truth is not only stranger and also more powerful than fiction. In such stories are contained glimpses of love in spite of pain, triumph through suffering… all the scenes that depict the splendor and magnificence of the human condition.

My aim is to honor the characters and their story without projecting my own fears, failures, prejudices & stuff into it. I believed that if I dug deep enough, with honest intent and clear motivation, I’d discover something to unlock my own mysteries and resolve my own pain. I have the sense that Grace is ever before us, we need simply to open our eyes to see it.

Personal Dedication

This book is dedicated to my own children. My hope for them, as probably with all parents, is that they can grow beyond my limits. See farther. Love better. Live more peacefully with themselves and others… Possibly avoid some of the grosser pains that stupidity brings our way… Extend grace to themselves and others.

I will end with one poignant quote I think is appropriate: “I never knew a man (or woman) I didn’t like.” I hope we all can suspend our judgments long enough to know and maybe care.

Footnote on subject material

*One special footnote. This story contains many events that are disturbing, especially within the present awareness and consciousness of issues such as AIDS, child abuse and social responsibility. We must remember that the 1960’s were characterized by unprecedented sexual permissiveness. The slogan “free love” was the vogue – whenever, with whoever, and however one wanted. An age of innocence and beauty from one angle. A period of indescribable debauchery and degradation from another.

In addition, as unbelievable as it sounds, there were no laws prohibiting sexual abuse until 1964. There are and were more laws to protect animals then children. I don’t say this in attempt to establish a moral platform, simply to set the stage for understanding… if possible.

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