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  • Writer's pictureRon Brent

2. How It All Started

Let me set the stage by taking you back to 1967.

I’m halfway through my Spring Semester as a photography major at Santa Monica City College. I’m about to have a spontaneous awakening that forever changes the direction of my life.

Not all awakenings are going to be dynamic. Mine certainly was. It struck me like a bolt of lightning. Someone else’s might arrive like a gentle breeze.

One day a fellow photography student approached me in the cafeteria.

This is Joel’s first semester at SMCC, having recently moved to Southern California from New York City. He has long reddish hair, somewhat longer than the recent trend of Beatle-inspired hair do’s. He’s a bit off-beat. He characterizes what I think someone from the Lower East Side might look like. He's a little effeminate in his mannerisms and has an air of the dark poet about him.

It turns out that Joel is a very talented guy. He’s the creator and host of the newly-launched college radio station. His photography work is quite extraordinary and he writes deep and beautiful poetry. For some mysterious reason he’s attracted to me. This makes me uncomfortable.

Joel begins joining me each day at lunch. On one such occasion he tells me I remind him of Demian, the character in the novel of the same name by Herman Hesse. He’s surprised when I tell him that I don't know who Demian is, and even more so when he discovers that I’ve never even heard of Hesse. I’ve never been a "book reader”.

The next day Joel shows up at lunch with the book. I assure him I’ll read it, but have no intention of doing so.

The book gets tossed behind the seat of my red Triumph TR-3 and remains buried there for the next several weeks as I make one excuse after another as to why I haven’t started reading it.

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