My Odyssey Through the Underground Press
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: Michigan State University Press
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People magazine once called me “father of the underground press,” and I immediately demanded a blood test. However, having launched The Realist in 1958, I did have a certain paternal feeling toward the anti-establishment papers that began burgeoning around the country during the 1960s, filling the void between what was experienced on the...
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Michael “Mica” Kindman and I shared something very special: a love of the underground press. He started an underground newspaper at Michigan State University in 1965 that became one of the first five members of the Underground Press Syndicate (UPS). I started the first underground newspaper at my high school in 1969. It never made it to...
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Michael “Mica” Kindman was a legend of the Vietnam era underground press, that media invention of the antiwar counterculture of the sixties and seventies that led the drive to end the U.S. disaster known as the Vietnam War. He was a founder of The Paper, the first underground paper in East Lansing, Michigan, as well as one of the first...
Chapter 1: Going to College—But Not for Long
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September 1963. I’m off to East Lansing, Michigan—far from my hometown on Long Island—to start college at Michigan State University, bright-eyed and enthusiastic, excited about the possibilities that await me. I’m an honors freshman in the journalism department, and one of hundreds of honors students from all over the country recruited...
Chapter 2: Ambassador from Somewhere Else
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Returning to East Lansing in the fall, I definitely felt like an ambassador from a developing national counterculture, bringing news of the future back to my provincial homeland. My lady friend Carol having resumed her schooling in Albany, New York, and my accomplice Larry having chosen to rent an apartment with another friend, I needed to...
Chapter 3: And Now, Something Completely Different
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It was by now the middle of May 1967 in my fourth year in East Lansing; many of my contemporaries were getting ready to graduate, but I wasn’t, because I had thrown standard college stuff overboard in order to have this revolution. And now things were sort of settling down in a funny way, or it was time to move on, or it was time to...
Chapter 4: Moving to the Future
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Candy and I continued trying to be normal people, but to no avail. Both of us were restless and scattered, unable to concentrate very well on our school and job responsibilities; real live people kept being more interesting to us. My friend Will came visiting from New York during December and, in a pattern that was becoming uncomfortably...
Chapter 5: Settling In
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None of this made much sense to Candy and me as we settled in from the highway, with our carload of household goods, our two cats, our young boyfriend along for the ride (who stayed only a few weeks), and our high hopes. And none of it would be made available to us just yet, either. We didn’t get to live in the houses on Fort Avenue Terrace, or...
Chapter 6: Two Different Worlds
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I was noticing that the people on the Avatar staff who were based in Boston and Cambridge, rather than Fort Hill, were feeling rather threatened by the sense of impending change, in ways I didn’t quite understand. I liked those people, and as I heard their versions of the story, I found myself sympathizing with them and becoming...
Chapter 7: Time to Get a Life
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With the fiction of working on the Hill’s newspaper set to rest once and for all, it was time for Candy and me to figure out what else to do with our lives. She readily moved into the sisterhood of Fort Hill women, with their flocks of babies to tend and their men to take care of and make fun of. I knew then and know now little of what went...
Chapter 8: A Purpose Finds Me
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My trip with Mel a week or so later made it clear I was feeling needy and unsure, but probably not ready for anything—though I would have liked to be. As I was ushered into Mel’s private space, he showed me his instruments, explained a bit about how he worked with them, and said something about how I would learn to work with...
Chapter 9: A Simple Man
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But Mel himself was gradually emerging as something both more and different from a “real man.” The “community” issue of the magazine included two articles under a joint headline, “There are a lot of illusions surrounding any truth.” In these articles, both Wayne Hansen and Brian Keating present Mel as the Christ. Wayne writes as “John...
Chapter 10: Christ, You Know It Ain’t Easy
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A few months after the “community” issue of American Avatar was published, Mel was feeling the urge again—and this time he was in the mood to really put people through changes. A third magazine-format issue was put together, again looking different from any previous one. The “Christ” issue was on heavy, matte-finish paper, the pages wider than...
Chapter 11: Superstars
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After returning to Fort Hill with the sales crew for the “Community” issue, I was again given the responsibility of finding a decent job off the Hill, as a source of money and, therefore, respect. After a series of short-term jobs, I answered an ad for a delivery driver for a major architecture firm in Cambridge, The Architects Collaborative (TAC)—professional...
Chapter 12: Another Visit from the Karma Squad
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About the time this new magazine was published, a mysterious impulse overtook me, as suggested by Mel’s essay. Mine wasn’t an impulse to produce a great creative work, exactly, but it was a bold step out for me at the time. Something possessed me to give notice at my job at the architecture firm and become a freelance handyman and carpenter....
Chapter 13: The Colonial Era Begins in Earnest
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It was unusual for me to attempt to put my feelings about my situation in writing. In fact, I hardly remembered how to write anything anymore. Once in a while, a directive would come from somewhere in the inner depths of the Hill, requesting or instructing that all of us write letters to tell Mel how we felt about some creative work...
Chapter 14: Send Out a Lifeline
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Meanwhile, back in the house on 15th Street, the New York community was receiving periodic infusions of news and cultural guidance from Mel and Fort Hill central. These infusions included the first of what would become a long series of music tapes prepared by Mel from a growing collection of 78 rpm records that he and Jim Kweskin...
Chapter 15: Hit the Road Again, Jack
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Within an hour or so, well after midnight, I was out of there, walking to midtown Manhattan to hitchhike out of town. I decided on the spur of the moment to head for East Lansing, where I expected I still had some friends, where I hadn’t been for four years, and where I believed, incorrectly, I still had a box of treasured goods in storage...
Chapter 16: What Next?
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In the morning, I began walking south along the state highway, which would eventually take me to the interstate that ran across the state from Kansas City in the east to the Colorado border in the west. I wasn’t at all sure where I was headed or what I wanted. In fact, I wasn’t even sure who I wanted to be. I knew “Jake the plumber”...
Chapter 17: There’s a Place in the Sun
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Redwood City and Palo Alto are, in a sense, the twin capitals of a small suburban metropolis known as the Mid-Peninsula, midway down the San Francisco Peninsula from San Francisco to San Jose, both much larger metropolises in themselves and with very different characters from each other. The Mid-Peninsula contains a little of...
Chapter 18: A New Movement, A New Paper
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Carol and I did not move in with our new friends, mainly because the space didn’t seem adequate, but I was invited to begin meeting with the men’s group, and did so promptly. On the day of the first meeting I was scheduled to attend, some particularly horrible event occurred (I don’t remember whether it was another insult from Jonathan in the...
Chapter 19: Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are
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That spring, I got pushed farther into exploring the question of my sexual identity. One of my men’s group friends, Gordon Murray, was invited to co-facilitate a course at Stanford on the philosophy and growing body of literature of the new men’s movement, through a new program at the university to encourage community participation;...
Chapter 20: Looking Back, Looking Forward
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In some ways, Fort Hill and all the traumas of the past slip farther and farther into a dim unreality of memory; in other ways it is all as real and present as ever. I seem always to be available and alert to reminders of it wherever they may show up—either from my own imagination and memories, or from signals I receive from the world...
Afterword: Michael “Mica” Kindman’s Last Years
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The Radical Fairies, or Radical Faeries, or either of them without capital letters (all abbreviated, along with their singular forms, as R.F. in this note) were founded in 1979 by Harry Hay and his longtime companion John Burnside, Don Kilhefner, and Mitch Walker. Harry had been a Communist in the 1930s as documented in Timmons’s biography1 and was also the founder...
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Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2011