August 3, 2014
As a child my role model was Dennis the Menace. Mostly due to his rebellious nature and the cowlick on the top of his blonde head. I wasn’t blonde, but I did have the cowlick, as well as assorted stripped t-shirts and blue jeans. The other famous item that Dennis owned was a sling-shot, and that too was part of my uniform when I was around six years old. I remember that it was extremely important to keep the sling-shot in the back pocket. I never actually used it, but it was an essential fashion accessory for me at the time. As an only child, I often went out and played with only my imagination as my guide. Without a doubt, the first character that I took on, was Dennis. It was the first time that I didn’t depend on my true identity, but adopted myself to another identity. The truth is I was a very well behaved child, but with the identity of Dennis, I can act out my aggressions against the world, with just my clothing and sling-shot placed in the rear pocket.
As I got older, I became aware of the TV series “Dennis The Menace” starring Jay North. The casting was perfect, and he was totally believable as Dennis, but still, I was more attracted to the comic strip than anything else. The 3D image of Dennis was hard for me to take, and I could only really accept the Dennis that was drawn on a page on a dirty newspaper. Also I started obtaining mass-market paperback editions of the Dennis cartoons. So over a short period of time I came into possession of a “Dennis” collection. When we lived as a family in San Francisco, we used to go to the North Beach district to eat and go to City Lights Bookstore. At one of the coffee shops nearby Chinatown, I approached a pair of police officers having coffee at their table. My parents were in the next table, but they let me go to them. The police officer patted my head, and asked what I wanted to be when I grow up. Noticing that both of them had guns, I told them I wished to be an assassin. At that point, I think my parents pretended that they didn’t know or own me. Nevertheless I was taken into a role of my imagination where the character Dennis was a killer, but he killed with his sling-shot. Now bear in mind I was totally aware that this was role playing, but still, perhaps not the wisest thing in the world to approach two tired cops on a coffee break.
Although not a fan of the TV series, I did follow Jay North as he went on to another series called “Maya.” The TV show was about a boy who wandered around India with a Hindu boy played by Sajid Khan and their elephant and her baby calf, a sacred white elephant. The narrative of the white elephant in Hinduism is the fact that it belongs to the god Indra. King Bimbisara had one white elephant and he gave it to his son Vihallakumara which caused a certain amount of jealousy for his other son Ajatasatru. Eventually it gave rise to two of the most horrible wars in history known as “Mahasilakantaka & Ratha-musala. As far as I know this has nothing to do with the show “Maya.” But on the other hand North and his co-star Khan became teen idols, and as I was a regular purchaser of magazines like “Tiger Beat” and “16” I pretty much followed the party line and became fans of both actors as well as their show. But at this time, I had to give up the sling-shot, but still kept the haircut as well as the stripped shirt.
“Maya” was my initial introduction to India. I never visited India, and I slightly knew of India probably through various Kipling tales as well as Sambo’s diner, which the restaurant’s mascot was taken from a South Indian literary figure. So it is safe to say I knew nothing of India. My actual introduction to an Indian from India was going to the Santa Monica civic to hear Jiddu Krishnamurti speak. There was no fee or charge to go to the civic, which struck me odd, because I have gone there numerous times for rock n’ roll shows, which of course one had to pay to get in. But here, it was free, and I’m not sure why I went with my dad to see Krishnamurti. For me, it was probably to kill time, but what was interesting to me was his personality. A woman from the audience came up to the stage and sat in front of Krishnamurti’s foot. Krishnamurti was very straight forward to her that he didn’t like her to be seated in front of him in such a fashion. Many years later I read about him, and regardless of the fact that I never read any of his books, I was impressed that as a youngster he was the chosen one by the Theosophical Society to lead or become “World Teacher.” Eventually Krishnamurti denounced that specific role, due that he claimed allegiance to no nationality, caste, religion, or philosophy. He also disbanded the organization that chose him as a leader of sorts.
For me there was something wise about Dennis the Menace, and I think he may have a soul-brother in Krishnamurti. The ability to act out as a child when I was actually a little boy brought me closer to who I am. Krishnamurti I believe was told to act out a certain role that would please those around him, but he said “nah” and stayed focused on his inner talents. He didn’t want to delude his message or questioning of the world in front of him. There is a purity in both characters. Yet, overall, it is but a journey from one destination to another. As the English poet Rupert Brooke once wrote: “,Well this side of Paradise!… There’s little comfort in the wise.”